Neighbors seek to close two Pen Lucy carryouts Sites said to hamper anti-drug effort

February 03, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Residents of the Pen Lucy neighborhood say the late operating hours of two carryout restaurants on Old York Road hamper their anti-drug efforts because dealers use the establishments for cover.

To take that edge away from the dealers, residents of the North Baltimore community want police to strictly enforce an ordinance that imposes a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew on retail businesses in drug-free zones.

The ordinance, adopted by the City Council last fall, enables police to disperse loiterers suspected of drug activity near businesses in the zones.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, said Monday that it has yet to be used to impose a curfew on a business in a drug-free zone.

Currently, when police approach the loiterers, residents say, the loiterers go into the carryouts in the 4000 block of Old York Road, saying they are in the area to buy food.

"They [drug traffickers] are always out there, in all kinds of weather and all night long," Robert Nowlin, a longtime resident and president of the Pen Lucy Association, said this week.

"They're always there selling drugs."

The neighborhood association is gathering signatures on a petition asking Northern District police to strictly enforce the curfew law.

"Right now, they [drug traffickers] can say they're just going in the store or just coming out of the store. That is the story. It's a cover for them to sell drugs," said Carolyn Joyner, who has lived in Pen Lucy for eight years. "It's even worse in the summertime, with people just milling about all night long," she said.

Ms. Joyner said drug dealers closely eye passing cars for potential customers as they gather along the small commercial strip in the 4000 block. The dealers, she said, first gather in the afternoon and remain well into the night.

Along the commercial strip, only the two carryouts are open after midnight. Employees at both businesses chose not to comment.

"If those two shops were closed, there's no reason for anyone to be standing around there. There is just so much loitering in the drug-free zones," Ms. Joyner said. "I figure how much [business] can you be doing after midnight," she said of the carryouts.

Residents said drug activity along the strip has increased during the last year, bringing with it an increase in violence.

In August, two men were killed and six others wounded in a tTC drive-by shooting when several men opened gunfire from a van as it passed a group of men standing on Old York Road.

Police said the shooting may have resulted from a turf battle between the Old York Road Boys and the McCabe Avenue Boys, gangs from neighboring North Baltimore communities who have feuded off and on for decades.

Shortly before Christmas, several shots were fired at Mr. Nowlin's residence in the 600 block of Cator Ave. He believes the incident stemmed from his anti-drug activities.

No one was injured in the shooting, but Mr. Nowlin said his wife and four young children were "rattled."

"They [drug dealers] seem to try to want to control the neighborhood and we won't let them," Mr. Nowlin said.

"Whenever police try to do their job, they run into the stores. This way, we'll let police do their jobs," he said about the drive for strict enforcement of the curfew ordinance.

"The worst thing is the fear they instill in the senior citizens and the other residents who live here," Mr. Nowlin said. "They try to intimidate you. The 4000 block of Old York Road is known all over the city for drugs."

One resident who asked not to be identified said he has seen dealers hide drugs near one of the carryouts.

"It's like he knew that I saw him and didn't care about it. He was that brazen or stupid to think that he was superior to me," the resident said. "And I guess he was because I didn't do anything."

Officer Joseph Burns, who patrols the area, said more than 200 arrests have been made in the last two months near the Old York Road commercial strip, and most have been for drug offenses.

"It's packed there, but once they see police, they go into a store," Officer Burns said. He said the 4000 block of Old York Road, although somewhat secluded from the main thoroughfare of York Road, has "built up a reputation" for drug trafficking over the years.

Council President Clarke said the carryouts merely provide an "excuse" for drug traffickers.

"How much business do you think is done after midnight? Not much," she said.

Ms. Clarke said that merchants are as likely to be targets of violence from drug activity as are residents.

"The stores are like how the . . . bus stops used to be for prostitution in Mount Vernon. They act as covers," Ms. Clarke said.

Mr. Nowlin said Pen Lucy refuses to surrender or to be intimidated by the drug dealers and will continue its efforts to rid the area of drugs.

An anti-drug march on Old York Road and through the neighborhood is planned for tomorrow.

"I'll fight a lot," Mr. Nowlin said. "Whatever it takes, that's what we're going to try to do."

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