Sandtown-Winchester takes broom to dirt, drugs

February 05, 1994|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

The littered streets of Sandtown-Winchester were quiet yesterday morning, except on the 1000 block of N. Carrollton Avenue where police joined community residents to literally sweep the streets of drugs.

With brooms, rakes and wooden boards, residents cleaned alleys and boarded up five vacant houses, leaving fewer places for dealers and addicts to shoot up or hide their drugs.

"We're trying to take back the streets. Here people are usually falling all over each other to buy drugs," said Michael Randolph, a community leader.

Mr. Randolph and community residents found themselves surrounded by police officers -- from Maj. Victor Gregory of the Western District to Officers Clementine Russum and Charles Dillon, who work foot patrol in the battered community.

A city vehicle shoveled trash from a back alley where dealers stash their drugs, said Mr. Randolph. "When [drug dealers] come back, they're going to have a big surprise. They'll have no place to hide their drugs," he said.

Police were there not only to show their support, but to make sure the vacant houses were safe for neighborhood residents to go inside and clean up, said Major Gregory.

"The community wants to do something to put a stop to this," he said of the drug trade.

Yesterday's cleanup was part of a citywide effort among community leaders to eliminate open-air drug markets. In some neighborhoods, residents take license numbers of drug buyers and send them warning letters. Other communities video-tape drug dealers. Several have staged vigils -- and even picnics -- on the corners where drug dealers usually do business.

Community leaders in Sandtown-Winchester also are working with the nonprofit Community Law Center, which sent letters to the owners of the five properties, asking them to clean and board the houses.

Only one owner responded and offered to give the house to the community, said lawyer Michael Sarbanes, who plans to take some of the owners to District Court. He wants a judge to find the vacant rowhouses a nuisance so the community can collect its costs of cleaning and boarding from the owners -- about $500 per house.

"We're trying to get the community to look like it was years ago," said Barton Bond, who has lived on the 900 block of N. Carrollton St. for 67 years.

On Thursday, narcotics investigators raided three houses in the 1300 block of N. Carey Street, a few blocks from yesterday's cleanup. Nine people were arrested.

Seized were several weapons and more than $15,000 worth of cocaine and heroin.

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