Housing police sweep vacant apartments

October 30, 1992|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Teams of police from the Baltimore Housing Authority searched 59 vacant apartments at the Murphy Homes public housing complex yesterday looking for squatters and drug traffickers.

There were no arrests.

But Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Housing Authority, said the searches at three high-rise buildings on Argyle Avenue and George Street put drug traffickers on notice that the city was "reclaiming" the vacant apartments.

About two dozen officers took part in the Murphy homes sweep. They were assisted by a locksmith who removed locks some trespassers had placed on the doors of vacant apartments that they had illegally occupied, Mr. Toohey said.

Empty ammunition boxes and discarded crack cocaine vials were found in many of the trash-strewn apartments that had been taken over by drug abusers and traffickers.

"We have made real progress," Mr. Toohey said, adding: "This has to be followed up with more permanent [around-the-clock]

officers and turnstiles to screen people entering the buildings."

Housing officers in May conducted a similar search at the Lafayette Courts complex in the 100 block of N. Aisquith St. in East Baltimore.

In August, officers conducted another sweep at the Lexington Terrace apartments in the 700 block of W. Saratoga St. in West Baltimore.

Only one high-rise complex, Flag House Courts, in the 100 block of S. Exeter St. in East Baltimore, has not been subjected to a large-scale sweep.

A city police officer was seriously wounded last month at the Flag House complex while making a drug arrest.

Drug-related crime in the high-rises has increased in recent years.

For example, Housing Authority police made 79 drug arrests at Lafayette Courts in 1990, compared with 220 for the first six months of this year, Mr. Toohey said.

Plans are under way to install computerized turnstiles in the entrances of the high-rises. Residents will be issued special cards to activate the turnstiles and gain admission to the buildings.

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