Community Policing in Action

March 22, 1994

Ever since he took over the Baltimore City police department six weeks ago, Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has been promising to "take back the drug corners and hold them." This past weekend's drug raid by 100 officers on the Barclay and Midway neighborhoods shows what he has in mind.

As heavy police presence continued in the 25-block target area of the raid yesterday, 84 city sanitation workers, aided by 25 trucks and six earth scrapers, kept removing trash from streets, vacant lots and back alleys. This concentrated sweep will continue for the rest of the week; then it is up to the residents and businesses to help keep the area clean.

Meanwhile, a series of meetings has been scheduled this month and next to organize area residents to combat drugs, violence and blight. The city housing department is moving on two fronts. It is preparing to demolish blocks of alley housing as well as toughening enforcement against landlords of the 213 vacant rowhouses in the area. Better street lighting also will be installed.

This is community policing in action. But can "Operation Midway" be duplicated elsewhere, considering the large number of neighborhoods plagued by guns and drugs?

"I'm going to do this throughout my district. It ain't no 'if.' I'm already looking at the next area," vowed Maj. Alvin Winkler, commander of the police department's Eastern District, which includes Barclay and Midway.

So far, so good. In the long-run, however, the police and other city agencies will have their hands full in trying to keep communities such as Barclay and Midway free of drugs and violence.

The addresses of the 65 adults indicted or arrested on drug or weapons charges show that most are residents of the very community they are accused of destroying. They may not have been known to the police, but residents knew exactly who the local hoodlums were. Yet either because of fear or complicity, the neighbors felt powerless to solve the area's crime and drug problems.

Police and other city agencies hope to turn things around in Barclay and Midway during the next couple of months. Community policing succeeds only if a community exists in fact and spirit.

Barclay and Midway will be the first public test of Commissioner Frazier's community policing strategy. Success -- or failure -- will be visible to everyone because Greenmount Avenue is an important north-south thoroughfare and North Avenue and 25th Street are heavily traveled east-west arteries. With coordinated city government efforts to help them, it is now up to the more than 4,000 residents of the area to decide whether they want a better life or boyz 'n the hood running amok with drugs and guns.

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