State creates special unit to combat drug invasion

March 16, 1992|By Roger Twigg and David Simon | Roger Twigg and David Simon,Staff Writers

An interstate drug strike force has been approved by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to stop drug traffickers -- primarily from New York -- from sending teen-agers into Baltimore and other Maryland cities to set up street-level narcotics operations.

The strike force is to be formally announced during the Governor's Summit on Violent Street Crime this Thursday at the Convention Center.

Dr. Neil Solomon, chairman of the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission, said the new strike force, which is to be coordinated by state police investigators, is being organized to disrupt, intercept and dis

mantle any organized trafficking and to prosecute those who are arrested.

The strike force -- which "has the blessings and support of Governor Schaefer," Dr. Solomon said -- should create an environment in Maryland unsuitable for the interstate drug trade, officials said.

"I think it will help get to the basic problem without requiring any additional funding. We have to penetrate this situation. These kids who are being sent here are involved in a lot of crime and violence," Dr. Solomon said.

Yet sources say that when state police officials met with the Baltimore police leadership to offer the new unit's help in the inner city -- where "New York Boys," as they're known on the street, now dominate many drug markets -- they were received coldly.

"We were told there is no problem" with a New York migration, one source said.

That opinion has been offered by ranking city officers since last fall, when it became clear to city detectives that they were coping with a string of slayings linked to dealers from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Since last summer more than 20 Baltimore drug murders have been linked to New York dealers, detectives say.

Street-level officers and some city prosecutors have been complaining to police superiors since 1985 about a growing problem. But as late as last fall, Baltimore police officials responded to news accounts of the problem by denying any migration existed.

"When you mention 'New York Boy' to your superior," complained one veteran city drug investigator, "you're told they don't exist."

After New York traffickers killed two innocent bystanders in the drug market at Division and Gold streets last Christmas, city police officials still failed to respond with any new deterrent, saying at that time that any migration was random. District drug officers say superiors recently sent an intelligence survey to all drug units asking about New Yorkers, but little else has changed.

"They're paralyzed," a district drug enforcement officer said.

A police department spokeswoman, Agent Arlene K. Jenkins, would not comment yesterday on complaints that police officials had long denied any problem of dealer migration to Baltimore. But she said the department welcomed the new program.

"We have had combined successful cooperative efforts with other law enforcement agencies in the past. Hopefully this one will be equally successful," Agent Jenkins said. "We have been monitoring the influx of New Yorkers and addressing it at the local level through raids and arrests. This will give us a competitive edge to address the illegal drug trafficking problem from another angle."

State police investigators have determined that drug traffickers in New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. -- many of them Dominican or Jamaican -- are taking homeless youths as young as 13 off the street and educating them on how to set up drug-distribution networks in cities throughout Maryland.

The change is one of tactics: Where once much of the narcotics on the East Coast came from New York, now many of the youths who sell the drugs here come from that city as well. Beyond Maryland, police agencies from Buffalo, N.Y., to Washington are reporting that young New Yorkers are claiming larger shares of local drug markets.

Maryland represents a lucrative opportunity for out-of-state drug traffickers because cocaine and crack that is being sold in New York City for $10 can be sold for as much as $40 here, officials said.

Drugs for the out-of-state operations are being delivered by automobile, bus and train, police said, adding that interrupting the transport system will be one goal of the strike force. In some instances, New Yorkers are making 400-mile round trips in taxicabs to deliver drugs here.

Youths are being lured into the drug trade with promises of easy money and less danger than in drug-laden New York, where internecine warfare among dealers is ruthless.

Community leaders and law enforcement officials testified at recent hearings around the state that out-of-state drug dealers, well-schooled by older traffickers, have become a major problem in Baltimore, Annapolis, Salisbury and Frederick, and in selected areas of Charles, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties, said Lt. Col. Thomas H. Carr, chief of the state police Bureau of Drug Enforcement.

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