Schaefer pays tribute to volunteer citizens who have taken on crime fight

January 17, 1993|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer did something infinitely more satisfying yesterday than trying to salvage government programs in a time of tight money: He saluted some 140 citizens who have found their own ways to fight the scourges of crime and drugs.

Assembled in a hot conference room at the Columbia Hilton, the citizens came from communities as diverse as Baltimore's Cherry Hill section and Silver Spring, Hagerstown and Chestertown. The occasion was a daylong program in which community leaders -- most of them volunteers -- traded the secrets of what has worked in their neighborhoods.

They have patrolled neighborhoods, counseled youngsters, developed ball fields, taken down liquor billboards, provided after-school tutorials, organized fathers and educated grandmothers about the ways of youth.

"The kingpins prey upon the young people in the public housing," Mr. Schaefer said during a conference sponsored by the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Commission. "The people who live there have to recapture it from the kingpins, these drug dealers.

"For every kid you are keeping off drugs, alcohol -- keeping away from AIDS -- you're saving a life. That's your reward."

Dr. Neil Solomon, the commission chairman, applauded the citizens for doing police and prisons cannot -- reduce society's thirst for drugs.

One by one, the community leaders gave snapshots of what they have been doing to combat crime and drugs.

* Ethel Ellison said the Chemical People's Task Force of Cherry Hill is educating grandparents about the problems facing youth. Seminars are geared for people who are raising their grandchildren.

* Kirk Wilborne of Baltimore said he is organizing a local chapter of Mad Dads, a national group based in Omaha, Neb., that encourages "drug-free males" to serve as role models and mentors for youngsters.

* Bernice Brooks, who runs Zion Outreach Services at 1221 Argyle Ave., helps run an after-school program for youngsters between theages of 6 and 13. She called it a "safe place" where children of working parents are tutored by college students, enjoy recreational programs and take field trips to such places as the Maryland Science Center.

* Jan Kelly of Middle River said a neighborhood watch program in the Village of Tall Trees, a low-income housing development, has vastly reduce the number of police calls there -- from about 400 a month in 1990 to about 50 a month in the last year.

* Charles Barba, president of the Fletchwood Community Association in Elkton, said neighbors there are donating time and equipment to develop a ball field in an area where children have to travel seven miles to play sports.

* Oliver Briscoe, speaking for Concerned Men of Kent County, said his group tells police where the drug dealers congregate in Chestertown -- a practice that has kept the dealers on the run.

* The Rev. Ronald T. Fisher of Chestertown organizes anti-drug marches through troubled neighborhoods. "I hate to see young people waste their lives, get shot and killed, become nothing," he said.

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