A 24-year-old Dundalk man was ordered evicted from his apartment within 72 hours yesterday in what a Baltimore County official said was the first use of a year-old state law designed to rid neighborhoods of small-scale drug dealers.
The law that took effect July 1, 1991, allows community associations, state's attorneys or county attorneys to go to court and seek a quick eviction if they can show that a property is being used for drug activity.
Allan James Watkins, who lives with Alice Ann Staudt, 22, and their 1-year-old son in the Hidden Cove Apartments in the 2000 block of Bear Ridge Road, admitted during the civil proceedings in Essex District Court that he has been dealing drugs.
But Mr. Watkins protested that he was unable to get a job for a year and resorted to selling cocaine in desperation.
"We did sell drugs," Mr. Watkins said, despite several warnings from Judge Barbara Jung that his statements could be used against him in an upcoming criminal trial. "We had maybe six clients at most. I tried to change my life and I try to survive," he said, explaining that he had no way to repay a government loan he used for training as an auto mechanic because he could not find a job after graduation.
A tearful Ms. Staudt pleaded with Judge Jung.
"We did make a mistake in getting involved in drugs. We should never have done it," Ms. Staudt said. "Nothing like this will ever happen again. If we do get kicked out, we have no place to go."
Assistant County Attorney Edward F. Seibert, referring to the year-old law, told Judge Jung: "This has never been tried in the state of Maryland before. This is an effort to rid this neighborhood in Baltimore County of pest houses like this."
Judge Jung agreed and ordered the eviction of Mr. Watkins but not Ms. Staudt because legal action was brought only against him. She also ordered Mr. Watkins, who has gotten a mechanic's job, to stop dealing drugs or face jail for contempt of her order.
County police Officer Troy Ray testified that Mr. Watkins has a criminal record that includes four convictions since 1986 for theft, drugs, deadly weapons and battery. Officer Ray said that police informants have bought cocaine from Mr. Watkins four times this year at two different locations.
The officer said the latest buys came within two weeks after Mr. Watkins moved on June 13 from a house on Inverton Road, ZTC owned by his mother, to nearby Hidden Cove in West Inverness.
Officer Ray said that police armed with a search warrant raided the apartment on July 10. He said that during the raid, Ms. Staudt told the police where to find two, half-gram baggies of cocaine.
Police confiscated the alleged drugs, scales, plastic bags and $300 in cash and arrested her and Mr. Watkins, the officer said.
Ms. Staudt was charged by police with possession of cocaine and Mr. Watkins with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and other narcotics offenses. They are free on bail awaiting trial.
Police Sgt. James Pianowski said he has been working on a seven-month investigation of drug activity in West Inverness, a residential community south of Wise Avenue and next to Lynch Cove, off Bear Creek in Dundalk. During that time, he said, police have arrested 53 people, including 17 last week when Mr. Watkins was arrested.
This afternoon, police are sponsoring a Drug Awareness Day in the neighborhood to rally community residents in the fight against drugs, Sergeant Pianowski said.
The sergeant said his parents live in the neighborhood and he grew up knowing Mr. Watkins, who accused him in court of conducting a personal vendetta in revenge for childhood disputes.
The idea to try the state law on Mr. Watkins came from Capt. W. Thomas Levering, the police department's Drug Reduction Initiative officer.