Tenants mark victory over crime and drugs Party shows off success at Allen

June 13, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A few years ago, Ruth Jones was ready to give up. She ha just become manager of Allen Apartments in Annapolis, and the illegal drug sales and other crime seemed overwhelming.

"I saw everything," she said yesterday, proudly showing off the community at a party after a successful two-year struggle for redemption. "There was prostitution, sex, drinking, drugs. You name it, it was here."

But Ms. Jones fought to rid the community of such ills, with help.

City police came in and made drug busts. Work crews put up a fence and got rid of the abandoned cars that had lined Allen Drive. The county opened an outreach office in the complex and staffed it with a Spanish-speaking official.

"It's wonderful," said Shannon Holland, 13, who moved to the apartment building off Forest Drive two years ago. "They have a lot of things that we can do. People take time to help us. They teach us about drugs and how not to use them."

Shannon, a sixth-grader at Annapolis Middle School, is proud. "We made this into a community ourselves," she said.

Yesterday's block party seemed to prove that.

Residents of the 98 apartments gathered to dance and eat and meet city and county officials.

"The government is showing the people that they can help them," Ms. Jones said, rushing to gather children who helped paint a colorful mural of flowers on the side of one apartment building.

Marie Casasco, who works with the Anne Arundel County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Program, said police have cleaned up the community -- most recently with 11 drug arrests -- but more must be done.

Ms. Casasco, who speaks Spanish, works from an office in the community that refers people to programs so they can get everything from drug treatment or help finding a job to tutoring so they don't fall behind in school.

About 40 percent of the residents are Hispanic, and many do not speak English.

"They come because we speak their language," Ms. Casasco said.

Some of those people stood in one corner near the community laundry room, away from the grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and music, and watched the ceremony.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins didn't miss a beat.

He approached the group, shook some hands and handed out his business cards.

"Do you speak English?" he asked one man, who slowly shook his head no. "I can't speak Spanish," the mayor explained to a reporter.

Eventually, Mr. Hopkins found Jose Daniel Fuentes, who moved to the United States from San Salvador eight years ago and frequently translates for his neighbors.

"Tell them I welcome them and I wish them happiness," Mr. Hopkins instructed Mr. Fuentes. "Do they know I'm the mayor? Don't give up, please. Tell them that I'm easy -- if they need to get me, no problem."

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