Authorities sweep Flag House Courts Seven are charged with 'squatting' BALTIMORE CITY

December 09, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

Baltimore Housing Authority police made another sweep through a public high-rise complex yesterday, seizing drug materials and arresting seven people who were illegally "squatting" in apartments.

Armed as in past sweeps with semiautomatic weapons, about two dozen police officers unlocked doors of 41 supposedly vacant apartments in the Flag House Courts development just east of downtown.

Inside, they found not only squatters but also "a host of drug paraphernalia, including syringes and empty vials," said Bill Toohey, a Housing Authority spokesman.

In one apartment, police also seized 65 caplets of suspected cocaine, Mr. Toohey said.

Six of the seven people arrested were charged with breaking and entering and trespassing. The other was charged with violating his parole.

Flag House Courts is one of the city's four public high-rise developments, all of which have had similar sweeps this year aimed at ridding the crime-troubled buildings of drug dealers and squatters.

"We think these have been successful. At Lafayette Courts [another East Baltimore high-rise], we have seen a 95 percent reduction in observable drug activity," Mr. Toohey said. "We've also seen a reduction in the number of shootings there."

Flag House Courts, which has three high-rise buildings on Albemarle and South Exeter streets, was the scene of a near-fatal shooting of a city police officer on Sept. 18.

Officer James E. Young Jr. was shot in the back of the head with his own gun after fighting with an alleged drug suspect near a stairwell. Officer Young is now undergoing treatment at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital.

A month earlier, a sniper fired several shots from one of the high-rises, pinning down 10 city police officers who had been making a drug arrest on the street below. They had to be rescued by an armored car brought in from Prince George's County.

Police seized an AK-47 assault rifle that had been used in a shooting at the project on Oct. 22, and initially they thought it was the same gun used in the sniper shooting.

But police now believe the sniper's bullets were actually fired from smaller handguns, Mr. Toohey said.

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