Waverly Winds gets breath of drug-free air

December 22, 1993|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

For the first time in years, Serreace Kelly says she's not afraid to take out her trash.

The big green trash bins near the center of the Waverly Winds community in Harpers Choice were a hot spot for crack cocaine drug dealers -- most of them outsiders -- and a ready supply of buyers.

Since the summer, however, Howard County police boosted their presence in the community and began pushing the dealers away. So far, police say their efforts at Waverly Winds, where police surveillance had shown a steady increase in drug dealing, have been positive.

"It's been a great change around here since the summer," said Ms. Kelly, 47, a 10-year-resident of the subsidized apartment and townhouse community in the 5500 block of Cedar Lane.

"It was god awful around here. You used to come home and see them there. You can actually see a difference now. Now it's pleasant to come outside your home. [The police] have done a wonderful job," Ms. Kelly said.

With tips from some fed-up residents and support from county housing officials, police hope their "community-oriented policing" program will continue to minimize drug activity in Waverly Winds and other communities.

Lt. Jeffrey Spaulding, head of the department's vice and narcotics division, said he measures the success of the division's work on persistence.

Police say a Dec. 7 raid by the department's drug and tactical units on a two-story Waverly Winds town house exemplifies the department's philosophy on fighting drugs -- confiscate drugs, arrest the dealers and a community's drug problem will disappear as well.

In the raid, 12 officers armed with automatic weapons and flak jackets rammed their way into the home, finding an "8-ball," or an eighth of an ounce of crack. Two arrests were made, one of them of a convicted drug dealer.

The recovery was small, but it made one more impact on the war on drugs, police said.

"It means a lot to that neighborhood," said Sgt. George Belleville, a patrol division supervisor. "Somebody's going to know what happened and that we're still out there doing what we can."

Police say their battle is not limited to low-income housing developments, but includes neighborhoods of single-family homes where some of the suppliers live.

So far in 1993, the county's vice and narcotics division recorded 240 arrests and 74 search warrants issued for drug activity throughout the county.

In 1992, the total number of arrests was 363, with 78 search warrants issued, according to Lieutenant Spaulding.

The community-based drug effort has focused on a number of apartment and town house communities this year, including Hilltop in Ellicott City, Roslyn Rise in Harper's Choice, as well as some neighborhoods of single-family homes in Owen Brown and Long Reach, police say. About a year ago, police set up a satellite office at the Stevens Forest Apartments to handle an increase in complaints there.

In each area, police meet with residents at community meetings, stroll through the neighborhood to show a presence or conduct covert investigations based on tips.

In many of these communities, police work with housing officials to evict residents who sell drugs or to ban troublemakers from the community.

Then police can arrest and search suspicious outsiders on trespassing charges.

Since January, at least 59 people were officially banned from the Waverly Winds Community, which police have focused on for months. Two of five trespassing arrests there involved men from Baltimore City who were also charged with possession of cocaine.

"The residents have worked positively with the police to keep this neighborhood safe," said Elsie Walters, executive director of Columbia Housing Inc., which runs Waverly Winds and several other developments in Columbia. "We've all come together with the same agenda."

By eliminating an open drug market, police say they also eliminate other problems, such as thefts and shootings, that follow.

"It's all starting to pay off," said Sgt. Dan Coon, the street drug division chief who organized the Waverly Woods raid.

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