Drug traffic cleared from streets -- for now

March 21, 1994|By Robert Hilson and Jay Apperson | Robert Hilson and Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writers

Robert Defaus' backyard "battlefield" was clear yesterday. The alley behind his Worsley Street home was free of drug dealers and users, free of random shootings and police chases. Youngsters played in the alley.

"This is the first time in many months that I can remember sleeping as well as I did last night," Mr. Defaus said as he stood on the back porch of his brick row home in the Barclay neighborhood.

"Usually there's so much stuff going on back here that you can come back and take your pick of criminals to arrest. I can only hope it lasts for another couple of months."

All the streets were quiet yesterday in Barclay and neighboring East Baltimore Midway, two crime and drug-plagued communities along the Greenmount Avenue corridor that were swept clean of drug activity Saturday in a series of police raids.

More than 100 police officers raided houses throughout the area and confiscated weapons and drugs. The raids culminated a six-week investigation, dubbed "Operation Midway," in which police had obtained indictments charging 43 adults with weapons and drug charges. Five others were charged as juveniles.

Yesterday, the police continued to arrest those named in the indictments.

During the raids, they had arrested 10 of the people named in the indictments, along with 22 others on drug or weapons charges because they were inside raided homes or were alleged to be found carrying drugs on the street.

By late yesterday afternoon, 21 of those indicted had been taken into custody. Many sat in police station lockups, waiting to see District Court commissioners. Bail for one suspect, 49-year-old Edward Sylvester Tolson, was increased from $1 million to $2 million by a commissioner.

Mr. Tolson, who police said had addresses in the 600 block of Gutman Ave. and the 2400 block of Barclay St., was named in six indictments charging him with selling cocaine and heroin to undercover police officers last month at the corner of Greenmount and Worsley. He was also charged with nine counts of conspiracy.

Officer Edward C. Bochniak, who investigates drug-related violence in the Eastern District, said Mr. Tolson's bail was set so high because he has a "horrendous" record and because he is charged in hand-to-hand sales to undercover officers.

Other suspects were being held on bails ranging from $10,000 to $500,000. Those indicted and then arrested are to appear today in Baltimore Circuit Court for bail review hearings.

Authorities said yesterday that no one drug ring seemed to be in control of the trade in the neighborhood.

"At the time that these matters are presented for trial, I think there will be further elaboration on the one or more organizations these sales spawned from," said Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms. "What was distinctive was we tried to really tailor our energy on those individuals who we thought posed a hazard to the safety of the Midway community," he said.

Focus on violence

"The whole focus of this was violence, as opposed to drugs," Officer Bochniak said. "It was designed to go after violent individuals who are drug dealers in this area."

Mr. Simms said many of those indicted could be subject to 10-year, no-parole sentences as repeat drug offenders.

Sgt. Donald L. Krebs, an Eastern District shift commander, said patrol officers and officers from the district's tactical unit who have been assigned to find the suspects have been given the names and photographs of those indicted but still not captured.

One of them, 26-year-old Margaret Couplin, was arrested yesterday at the corner of Barclay and 21st streets.

The police presence apparently contributed to the quiet in the neighborhood.

Along Greenmount, from East 24th Street to North Avenue, where even during last month's snow and ice storms it was business as usual for crowds of drug traffickers, the corners were ghostly quiet.

On side streets and alleys, where drug dealing and using was done inside and in front of boarded houses, the only trace of illegal activity was the litter of used syringes and plastic vials that are used to package cocaine and heroin.

"Do I feel better, of course I feel better. This is one of the best things that could have happened here," said Hattie Gannon, 49, who lives in the 500 block of E. 21st St.

As she spoke, Ms. Gannon hung laundry from her back porch. She has lived in the house for only a short time, and the shooting on her block 11 months ago when a dozen people were wounded during a dice game is fresh in her memory.

Barking instead of gunfire

Saturday night was the first night in months that she had not heard gunfire. The uninterrupted sleep was welcome.

"But I won't be happy until everything around here is good. That means getting all of the trash up, too," she said. "The only thing wrong with last night is that the dogs were barking too loud."

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