Citizens weary of crime give Frazier an earful

March 11, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Residents of some of Baltimore's most crime-ridden neighborhoods gave the new police commissioner a lecture last night, describing their streets as lawless playgrounds for delinquents and drug dealers who have become more powerful than the police.

"The cops are scared of the drug dealers. You cops are nothing but wimps," yelled Lisa Allen, a Park Heights resident and member of the Bread of Life Tabernacle church. "You see the drug dealers and you do nothing. They control the streets, not you."

Ms. Allen, who said she was once a drug addict, spoke at a community meeting on crime at Greenspring Middle School in Northwest Baltimore. Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier was there, along with other city officials including City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms.

Amid cheers, whistles and applause from the crowd of 70 people, Ms. Allen told the panel -- in particular Mr. Frazier -- that the city's crime epidemic isn't going to change unless the police become more aggressive.

"Take off those suits. Take off those uniforms. Walk through Park Heights dressed like I am and talk to the people," said Ms. Allen, dressed in a black shirt, pants and hat. "How can you sit there and tell me you're going to help my community? You can't even imagine what it's like."

Several other citizens addressed the commissioner directly and -- though not as critical as Ms. Allen -- said they believe police have become intimidated by the overwhelming amount of drug dealers.

"I hope this is on your agenda, Commissioner. We see the police cars, and they do not come out of their cars," said Bev Thomas, who lives in Park Heights and is on the Northwest Baltimore Zoning Committee.

"I'm not saying that they have to lock the drug dealers up every time. But when you have a uniformed cop right there and they do absolutely nothing, what kind of message is that sending out?" Ms. Thomas said.

The commissioner, who started his job in January, told the crowd he believes steady improvements will be evident.

He guaranteed that police, through a citywide community policing plan and through more aggressive police work in the districts, would "take back" the drug corners. "We're definitely going to do that," Mr. Frazier said.

"I can see how people might have been frustrated in the past. I can't speak to what's happened before I got here. But I think morale is on the upswing. I think we're going to be more proactive than before," he said.

Residents painted scenes of Park Heights life for the commissioner. Goldie Mason, president of the Alcott Tenants Association, told him about the problems with prostitution and gun-toting drug dealers in public housing.

Ms. Mason, who is building manager of a Park Heights apartment complex, described prostitutes turning tricks for drugs and pushers who won't allow people who aren't drug users into buildings.

She said the biggest obstacle police face is that they are trying to enforce laws in a morally bankrupt society.

"I had one man in my building say to me, 'The most wonderful thing that happened with crack is that the price of sex went down. What you used to have to spend $50 for now only costs you $5 in crack,' " Ms. Mason said.

Mr. Frazier also heard from Christopher Williams, a science teacher at Greenspring Middle School who said today's youth do not treat him with respect.

"I've never seen kids like this. I've had kids come chest-to-chest with me. These are little kids, just middle-schoolers. I've had kids try to box me," Mr. Williams said. "They come to school with an attitude."

Mr. Frazier said he is not dismayed by the problems he faces.

"It's a difficult battle, and it's not going to happen overnight," he said. "We're going to have to take the city back, block by block."

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