Baltimore blitz aims to clean Middle East neighborhood

August 05, 1994|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore work crews boarded up vacant buildings and hauled away trash yesterday as 300 social workers and volunteers canvassed the streets of Middle East in a cleanup operation after the July 14 police raid in the community.

"They got rid of some of the human dirt, so I guess they thought they'd work on the natural dirt," said Nadine Carter as she watched city workers with rakes and shovels clear away dirt and debris in the 1700 block of Barnes St.

By noon, workers had trucked away 22 tons of trash from neighborhoods north and east of Johns Hopkins Hospital, said city housing official Eric Brown, who was overseeing Operation Mid-East.

Ruth Jeffries, of the 700 block of Madeira St., said boarding up vacant houses "will help a whole lot," but she still sees drug traffickers scooting into alleys one block away. "I can see a little action passing along . . . early in the morning now."

Some residents were skeptical about the lasting impact of yesterday's cleanup.

James Kent, who owns a convenience store at the corner of Jefferson and Chester streets, said his block would not stay clean long. "They're going to have it dirty again in another two or three days."

Neighborhood residents are more worried about rats, trash, vacant houses and jobs than crime, said state Del. Hattie N. Harrison, who coordinated a group of volunteers and social workers walking the same Middle East streets where she grew up.

"What we are finding is all people want is somebody to talk to and somebody to listen to their problem," said Ms. Harrison.

Yesterday, volunteer Lillian M. Jackson was doing more than listening. As she went door to door handing out information about social agencies and surveying residents about their concerns, she encouraged them to get involved in neighborhood organizations and to complain to city officials.

"Now is the time to call them, while they're doing this campaign," Mrs. Jackson told a Madison Street homeowner who said city officials had ignored complaints about street conditions in front of her home. "This will put them on the spot."

Residents also could complain in person to various state and city agency representatives who were camped out in the multipurpose room of Tench Tilghman Elementary School on McElderry Street.

The Rat Rubout table was a popular destination at the school. Housing inspector Daniel Bates said about 40 people had come there by 1 p.m. to complain about rats. For one day only, he said, inspectors will set rat traps for anyone who filed a complaint.

Officer Rebecca Harrington, who was at a crime prevention table, said several residents offered names of drug dealers and pinpointed vacant houses where drugs were stashed.

"It's going to make our job that much better," she said. "It's going to create a safer environment for them to live in."

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