Residents to target drug users

April 29, 1994|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Tired of motorists coming to their neighborhood to buy drugs, Greenmount East residents have adopted a battle plan: videotaping cars that cruise drug-infested areas and sending the owners a letter that states, "Drugwatchers are watching you."

The East Baltimoreans' campaign, which begins tonight, also includes twice-weekly marches through drug-infested pockets of the neighborhood and increased vigilance to report drug activity.

"This lets [drug buyers] know that we know just who they are," said Candace Campbell, who lives in the 1400 block of N. Bond St. and is an organizer of Drugwatchers, the community's drug-fighting group.

Drug trafficking in the neighborhood has increased since police conducted a major sweep in the nearby Midway and Barclay communities last month, Greenmount East residents and police said.

Motorists regularly cruise the 1300 and 1400 blocks of N. Bond St. at night, seeking to buy drugs. Earlier this week, one car circled the area five times within 10 minutes. Another parked near Hoffman and Bond streets until approached by a dealer, about 15 minutes later.

Under the neighborhood battle plan, the 30 members of Drugwatchers will use a video camera to capture cars that appear to be in the area to purchase drugs. They'll pass on the license plate numbers to police and use them to obtain each car owner's address from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The next step: sending the car owner a letter from Drugwatchers.

"It's a letter saying, 'Your car was seen in this area where there is high drug activity and your license tag has been recorded,' " Ms. Campbell said. "After they get the letter, if they have any sense, they won't come back to the area. It at least lets them know that they are being watched."

The letter does not claim that the motorist bought or sold drugs, only that the car was spotted in an area of drug trafficking.

Residents hope the videotaping and letter-writing efforts will deter youngsters who use their parents' car to visit Greenmount East to buy drugs, as well as drivers who use a spouse's car.

Officer Cynthia Walker, a community policing officer assigned to the Eastern District, said efforts to thwart drug activity in the area have not worked before "because the residents were scared" of the drug dealers.

"Once the dealers see that the citizens are fighting back and fed up, they have no choice but to go somewhere else," she said. "If you know that when you come to a neighborhood, people are peeping out their windows taking your tag numbers, you're not going to stay long."

During her shift, Officer Walker is almost continually chasing drug dealers from corners, while keeping track of cars that seem to circle the area in search of drugs.

"No black top, red top or blue top. Only curly top today," she says, referring to her hair style. "So everybody keep moving."

A similar neighborhood letter-writing campaign began in J JTC drug-infested section of the Forest Heights community of West Baltimore last year. People came from areas far beyond the city to buy drugs.

That campaign began with the aid of City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and produced a noticeable reduction in the number of suspicious cars in the community, according to residents.

Joanie Holland, who has lived on North Bond Street for three years, hopes Drugwatchers will make life difficult for drug dealers.

"After a while we hope that they get tired of us interrupting their business and leave the area."

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