Drugs swept up -- now the trash

March 22, 1994|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Sun Staff Writer

The second phase of the city's crash program to restore order to the crime-plagued East Baltimore Midway and Barclay communities unfolded yesterday as a massive cleanup followed weekend police sweeps aimed at drug dealers.

Some 84 city public works employees and 31 pieces of machinery descended on the neighborhoods yesterday to rake vacant lots, sweep the streets and clear trash-clogged alleys in the five- by six-block area.

Throughout the day, the neighborhood was a beehive of activity. But, instead of drug dealers and buyers causing the action, the streets were alive with street sweepers, small tractors and public works employees -- and police -- who together have driven dealers away from the area's once thriving open-air drug markets.

By the end of the day, public works officials estimated that workers had removed 60 tons of trash from the neighborhood.

"The police went in to clean the drugs out, and we went to clean out the other stuff," said city Public Works Director George G. Balog. "But if the neighborhood doesn't pitch in, we'll be doing it again."

City officials promise that their effort, dubbed "Operation Midway," will go far beyond the drug sweep and trash cleanup.

Officials said there are plans to renovate 100 vacant houses owned by the city Housing Authority in the targeted area, which is bounded roughly by East North Avenue on the south, 25th Street on the north, Guilford Avenue on the west and Homewood Avenue on the east.

Also, the city plans to demolish two blocks of vacant homes along Worsley and Heaver streets, ragged alley streets. They said demolition should begin within a month.

In addition, the city hopes to move long-stalled development plans for vacant property at the corner of North and Greenmount avenues as well as housing planned for the western edge of the cleanup area. They also plan to step up housing code enforcement and prod landlords to make improvements on their properties.

"We are going to be targeting landlords who have been problems," said Daniel P. Henson III, the city's housing commissioner.

"We have done what we had to do. We're going to see to it that the community is doing what it has to do. So we're going to tell them 'now you have to do what you have do, or we'll be coming after you. No excuses.' "

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is expected to lead other city officials, including Mr. Henson and Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, to a community meeting tomorrow in a recreation center in the 2300 block of Greenmount Ave.

City officials view the meeting as the first step in launching several community-led programs including a citizens' anti-crime patrol and several beautification programs.

Yesterday's cleanup followed a series of police raids Saturday in which more than 100 police officers raided houses throughout the area and confiscated weapons and drugs.

The raids culminated a six-week investigation in which police had obtained indictments charging 43 adults with weapons and drug charges. Five others were charged as juveniles.

Since the raids, police have steeped up patrols in the area and vowed to remain as long as it takes to keep the drug markets shut down. "I'm really satisfied with what we have done thus far," said Maj. Alvin A. Winkler, commander of police in the city's Eastern District. "All of a sudden, I'm getting phone calls from people who appreciate what we're doing, who think we're serious about what we're doing and who are willing to help us."

Major Winkler said he is confident that he has the manpower needed to keep up the new patrols. He also promised similar actions in other areas of his police district, which is the most violent in Baltimore. "I want to go from one to the next, to the next," he said.

But, while police were upbeat, some neighborhood residents were skeptical. "All people are going to do is move the action up or down the street," said Kim Hawkins, who lives in the 2100 block of Greenmount Ave. "And, wherever they move into, the same thing is going to happen. The cops came through here and arrested nothing but little people, people out there making [drug] runs for $2 to feed their habits."

Willie Meadows, who bought a house on Homewood Avenue 11 years ago, said he was trying to be optimistic. "I hope it makes a difference," Mr. Meadows said. "It had been getting pretty rugged around here. Pretty rough."

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