Gilchrest tours troubled neighborhood Residents tell him they fear crime

April 07, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Caroline Jackson tripped over a broken beer bottle and nearly fell yesterday as she hurried across a muddy, trash-strewn lawn in downtown Annapolis to meet U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.

"Here's the problem," she cried, as several city officials offered steadying hands. "Here's where the killings are in the hallway. Here's where the violence exists. Right now, we're almost afraid of our own neighborhood."

The small woman in a floppy black hat was standing in front of a run-down apartment in which an Annapolis police officer was shot and wounded in February. Three other officers narrowly escaped injury when a gunman opened fire while they were searching the apartment for drugs.

Yesterday, Mr. Gilchrest, a 1st District Republican, spent three hours visiting the neighborhood, where drug activity and violence have been increasing.

The shooting came after months of complaints by neighbors that a tougher crowd had staked out the corner of Clay and West Washington streets.

Parents have forbidden their children to visit the teen center there, and longtime residents say they would like to move.

Housing advocates, representatives of community organizations and two dozen city, county and federal officials joined Mr. Gilchrest in touring the troubled area. The visit ended in a wide-ranging discussion with residents at the Stanton Community Center.

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, Aldermen Dean Johnson, Carl O. Snowden and Samuel Gilmer, and county Councilwoman Maureen Lamb made a host of suggestions to Mr. Gilchrest. So did residents and the directors of organizations that provide counseling, free clothes, food and birth control in the eight-block area.

Mr. Gilchrest jotted down their ideas while walking around the neighborhood.

Toward the end of his visit, he shook his head and said, "We're dealing with teen-age pregnancy, public housing, private housing that the city wants to purchase, drugs, jobs. Whoa."

But he promised to look for financial assistance to renew the area. Some money might be available in President Clinton's stimulus package and through Community Development Block Grants or other subsidies, he said.

Alderman Johnson, an independent who represents the Clay Street corridor, told Mr. Gilchrest that it was once a thriving commercial center with a movie theater, doctors, pharmacists, a grocery store and well-kept homes.

Emily Green, the city's director of community development, also recalled the days when families swept their front porches in the mornings and "everybody's grandmother was your grandmother." She and others spoke of their hope that the community would be reborn.

"We would like to become part of the team to see what we can do to make this a better place to live," Mr. Gilchrest said. He pointed out that the framework for improvements is already in place.

The Police Department has opened a satellite office at Helping Hand, a Clay Street homeless shelter. Healthy Teens, a nonprofit program in the Stanton Center, counsels teen-agers about pregnancy prevention. There's a Head Start program on Clay Street and a juvenile services program for troubled youths.

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