Advice on stifling drug trade Community leaders hear from experts BALTIMORE CITY

October 01, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

From Govans and Boyd-Booth to Harlem Park and Park Heights, community leaders gathered yesterday to get advice from the experts on how to eliminate open-air drug markets from Baltimore neighborhoods.

About 50 community leaders squeezed into a conference room at the downtown offices of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association to get tips from Roger Conner, co-author of "The Winnable War: A Community Guide to Eradicating Street Drug Markets," and the Rev. George Clements, pastor at Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church on Chicago's South Side, who has been battling drug dealers in his community for two decades.

Mr. Conner outlined his three objectives for running drug dealers out of a community:

* Broadcast that drug dealing is no longer acceptable to a community.

He suggested nightly anti-drug patrols where drug dealers usually conduct business and demonstrations against landlords who tolerate drug dealing in their properties. In some cities, Mr. Conner said, people spray paint "Drug Dealers Go Home" on the sidewalks.

* Deny drug dealers access to their markets.

"If you're a drug dealer, the three most important things are location, location, location," he said.

If dealers use a playground, "get it fenced and padlocked at night," Mr. Conner said.

He also suggested that the arrests of drug dealers will not eliminate a community's drug problem because dealers will return or be replaced by others.

"Could you shut down a shopping center by arresting the shoe salesman? No. You shut down the shopping center by blocking the parking lot," said Mr. Conner, who is executive director of the American Alliance of Rights and Responsibilities.

One of the most successful ways of denying dealers access to markets, he said, is to clean up the community, eliminating trash-strewn areas where drugs can be hidden. "Rats are attracted to dirt and trash and so are drug dealers," he said.

* Remove drug dealers' sense of impunity and let them know they are not above the law.

Mr. Conner said residents should videotape and photograph the transactions of dealers and customers.

He suggested lobbying to get a law passed to allow police to confiscate customers' cars. In New Haven, Conn., he said, postcards are mailed to the owners of cars that are seen frequenting areas where drug dealers and prostitutes do business in an effort to dissuade them from returning to the neighborhood.

Mr. Conner said he particularly liked the idea of confiscating cars of drug buyers.

Father Clements recalled his first attempt to rid his Chicago community of drug dealers.

After the death of a teen-age parishioner from a drug overdose, the priest went to a local store and asked the owner to stop selling drug paraphernalia. When the owner refused, Father Clements blocked the store entrance and turned away customers by convincing them not to shop there. His tactic worked, and the owner stopped selling paraphernalia such as pipes and syringes.

From that first experience, Father Clements and other community leaders confronted other store owners, blocking access to their businesses and once holding a revival in a shopping center parking lot.

Father Clements joined forces with social activist Dick Gregory and forced drug dealers out of a park in Shreveport, La., by setting up a tent and holding daily vigils.

"By the end of the summer, the swimming pool was beautiful, the children were playing baseball and swinging on the swings again," he said.

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