After the raid: Parents hopeful, but not celebrating

July 16, 1994|By This article was reported and written by Sun staff writers Rafael Alvarez, Melody Simmons and Elaine Tassy.

Before 200 police stormed through neighborhoods around Johns Hopkins Hospital Thursday for drugs and the people who sell them, a child playing along the streets was just as likely to be hit by a bullet as a car, according to parents.

So far this year, drugs and the violence that envelops them have led to 39 shootings and six murders in the blocks near the hospital.

After Thursday's raid -- in which 35 people were arrested -- parents hoped for better things, but were too savvy to claim victory.

Michael Wright, the father of a 10-year-old, watched the raid from his home in the 2100 block of Jefferson St. with mixed feelings. The laid-off Amtrak worker wanted to know why does life have to become a nightmare before anything happens.

"The police allow things to go on," said Mr. Wright, 36, who said whites and blacks buy drugs in the neighborhood. "They might not let it go on for too long, but when they want to go in, they know exactly where to go and what to do."

A day after police went in armed with battering rams, arrest warrants and grand jury indictments for more than 100 people, the neighborhood was quiet. As in a similar sweep along Greenmount Avenue and Barclay Street on March 19, city cleanup crews came through yesterday to haul away 35 tons of garbage.

In this new atmosphere, said Frances Young, 79, people like her might be able to walk around the neighborhood again.

Ms. Young, who lives in the 900 block of N. Washington St., rued that the past few years have turned her into a hermit. "When I go in, I don't come back out," she said, adding that drug dealers begin walking the streets in small groups before the sun comes up.

But unless police stay vigilant, predicted 68-year-old James Jones, the drug merchants will be walking the streets again before long.

"They should raid more often," said Mr. Jones as he sat on his cousin's steps, three doors from a house that was raided in the 1800 block of E. Eager St. "It's a supermarket."

Gerald Horton of the 1000 block of Washington St., also predicted that the dealers would return. "They're smarter than -- the police around here," he said.

Rose Bowlding didn't think the police were so smart.

Her house in the 1800 block of E. Eager St. was one of 20 raided by police. Although she admitted yesterday to being sick after using heroin on Thursday, police didn't find any drugs at her home.

Ms. Bowlding, 33, who acknowledged being a chronic heroin user, said she and her 11-year-old son were sleeping about 7:15 p.m. Thursday when 10 officers roared through the front door.

On the second floor of her rowhouse yesterday, Ms. Bowlding's clothes were still strewn a foot deep. A dresser was upended, and boxes were thrown around.

The house was hit because "it was in our target area," said Officer Dave Reitz of the city's violent crime task force. "We had houses that we suspected . . . guns were kept, [where] people were dealing drugs, and stash houses. This one was suspected to be a drug house."

But the only thing investigators found, said Officer Reitz, was cocaine residue. Police, he noted, do not go back to clean up the mess they make in raids.

While Ms. Bowlding was too sick from heroin to clean up the mess in her house, Ron Moore and Robert Cheeks were supervising youngsters cleaning up the mess on the street.

The volunteers, part of the Riker (Rocky) McKenzie Human Development Center Inc., stood on Rutland Avenue as four youths making $4 an hour picked up trash and pulled weeds. The McKenzie center is an organization formed two years ago by Mr. McKenzie, a longshoreman who wanted to give something back to the neighborhood where he grew up.

"We are trying to do the same thing that the police are doing," said Mr. Moore. "We want to clean up the streets and keep them clean. And we can keep young guys off of the street."

Mr. Cheeks, who identified himself as a former heroin addict in recovery, called the police raids well-intentioned. But he said the neighborhood remains overwhelmed.

"I don't know what will save this neighborhood. Maybe it's got to do with having no jobs and no black leadership," said Mr. Cheeks. "The mayor can only do so much. It would be better to have more community involvement."

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