'Operation Midway' tests a community

March 22, 1994

It's no great secret: community policing -- like community development -- succeeds only if a sense of community exists. For that reason, the ultimate success of the weekend's "Operation Midway" will be determined by the more than 4,000 residents of a 25-block area in Barclay and Midway neighborhoods. If the war on drugs and guns is to be won, they have to become active combatants.

Over the past three years, the streets along the Greenmount Avenue corridor, from 25th Street to North Avenue, have been deteriorating rapidly. Violence has been rampant. Trash and 213 vacant houses have become nests for rats, vagrants and vandals. Drugs have been everywhere.

As a result of about 100 officers' sweeping the area over the weekend, the most brazen open-air drug markets have been closed. A heavy concentration of city sanitation workers -- 84 employees, equipped with 25 trucks and six earth scrapers -- are cleaning the streets, alleys and vacant lots. For the time being, the area is unusually tidy and quiet.

Can permanent improvement come to the area? That is up to the neighborhoods.

The addresses of the 65 adults indicted or charged on drug or gun charges during the weekend raid show that most live in the area. Not only is crime a neighborhood business for many of residents but it also involves husbands and wives, girlfriends, boyfriends.

Any permanent improvement will depend on the ability of the Barclay and Midway neighborhoods to change their internal dynamics and clean up their own community.

The police can beef up patrols. The housing department can demolish derelict houses or whip landlords of vacant houses into compliance with codes. Sanitation crews can cart away tons of debris. But in the long run, only the community can turn itself around by ejecting local hoodlums. But is the area ready for this -- or capable of it?

The target area of "Operation Midway" contains some of the busiest cross-town arteries in Baltimore. For that reason, the whole city will be able to determine whether this was just another drug raid or a turning point for the community. The "Operation Midway" area also borders on important institutions -- such as the school system headquarters and MTA depot. Much of the housing stock is either sound or salvageable. But drugs and violence act as a deterrent to efforts to improve homes. Would-be homeowners will shy away from rehabs, landlords will not spend money to repair or maintain their properties.

We applaud Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and other city officials for a well-executed operation and for their plans to stabilize Barclay and Midway. And we support the law-abiding residents on whom the success of these efforts ultimately rests.

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