Drug market targeted before killing Police already set sights on streets in Westminster

February 01, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Police are trying to squash an open-air drug market in the area where a Westminster man was murdered Thursday night, Sgt. John Burton, supervisor of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force, said yesterday.

Since last October, the task force has been working on the crack market in the area around South Center and Charles streets in Westminster, Sergeant Burton said.

He said several residents have called police anonymously to complain, and several arrests have been made there since December.

The task force's work netted one more alleged dealer in the market Friday night with the arrest of a Baltimore County man whom Sergeant Burton said was believed to be on his way to the corner of South Center and Charles with $1,500 to $2,500 worth of crack cocaine.

But the stepped-up law enforcement effort did not prevent the death of Gregory Lamont Howard, 22.

Police said Mr. Howard was shot by one of three men who believed that Mr. Howard had sold them fake crack.

The suspect arrested Friday was Craig Long, 23, of Haddon Avenue in Woodlawn. Police believed he was headed to the open-air drug market when task force officers and state police saw him driving west on Route 140 near Leidy Road at about 8 p.m., Sergeant Burton said.

After state police stopped Mr. Long, a specially trained dog indicated the car he was driving had drugs in it, Sergeant Burton said.

He said police found a half-ounce of crack under the driver's seat cover. They also reported finding about 100 small zipper-seal plastic bags, which are often used to package drugs for street sale.

Sergeant Burton said he expects more arrests of dealers in the area of the open-air market.

With the arrests since December and the arrest of three men in connection with the murder Thursday night, it is possible that drug activity there might move to elude police, Sergeant Burton said.

"If they do [move], then we'll follow them . . . We're not planning to let up on anything," he said.

Most Carroll County drug dealing is done out of homes, he said. The "open-air" markets are unusual.

"They are out on the streets. Customers will more or less drive cars, stop, make the buy, then leave," he said.

The dealers are in their late teens and early 20s, coming from within Carroll County as well as from Baltimore and Baltimore County, the sergeant said.

The South Center Street neighborhood near Charles Street is heavily populated, especially with families that have small children. Many people there live in low-cost apartments and may not be able to afford to move away from the increasing crime.

"Any time you have drugs involved and guns, it puts everyone in danger, not just children," Sergeant Burton said.

But he said the dealers "are not recruiting any juveniles, as far as we know."

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