Housing authority police officers made 10 arrests in a sweep yesterday of 109 vacant units at Baltimore's Lafayette Courts public housing development in a crackdown aimed at ridding the complex of drug traffickers.
In one apartment, police found evidence of a drug "shooting gallery." A refrigerator had been moved from the kitchen to the living room, where it was turned on its side and used as a table. On top were used syringes, bottle caps and soda cans that had been split in half, apparently to be used to prepare drugs for injection.
The sweep began at 11 a.m., when 25 housing authority officers armed with semiautomatic weapons began searching the vacant apartments scattered among six buildings. The 816-unit complex in the 1100 block of Orleans St. and the 100 block of Aisquith St. east of downtown.
Six men arrested in vacant apartments were charged with trespassing and breaking and entering. Among them, one man also was charged with possessing drug equipment and another -- allegedly caught with "a large amount" of suspected crack cocaine -- was charged with possession with intent to distribute and with assaulting an officer.
Three other men and a woman were arrested later in the day on charges of drug dealing, which continued in the face of the beefed-up police presence, said Bill Toohey, Housing Authority spokesman.
Many vacant apartments had been taken over by drug traffickers linked to recent shootings at Lafayette Courts. Some locks had been changed, so the authorities had to kick in doors.
About 12 percent of the units at Lafayette Courts are vacant, compared to 4 percent in other housing projects, Mr. Toohey said. "In a couple of hours they can be taken over and trashed by a drug dealer. We can have a family moved out midday of one day, and go back the next day and find something awful has happened to that unit," he said.
Maintenance crews will make repairs as soon as possible for new tenants, he said, adding, "Within next month, we will be installing new computerized security at the entrance to Lafayette Courts, admitting only those with electronically coded cards."
Yesterday's sweep begins a new effort by the housing authority to rid Lafayette Courts and other projects of drug activity.
Additional housing officers have been assigned to patrol 24 hours a day.