13 arrested after complaints of drug dealing prompt raids

September 02, 1994|By Peter Hermann and Howard Libit | Peter Hermann and Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writers

More than 150 heavily armed city police and federal agents raided 15 West Baltimore houses and arrested 13 suspects yesterday, climaxing a six-week operation that netted thousands dollars worth of heroin and several pounds of cocaine.

Police said they seized substantial quantities of suspected crack cocaine and heroin from a stash house in the 500 block of Bloom St. An occupant of the house, Cheryl Willis, 31, was charged with possession of cocaine and heroin, distribution of cocaine and heroin and manufacturing drugs.

Police identified Ms. Willis as a member of the the "Blue Funk" drug gang, named for the blue packaging on its $5 heroin packets. Police said they discovered a drug cache during a search of the house, some of it stashed in a gym bag in the bedroom of Ms. Willis' 7-year-old daughter.

Police said yesterday's raids were a smashing blow to Blue Funk and other drug gangs operating in the area.

"It's a great day for communities in Baltimore," said Sheriff John W. Anderson, whose deputies assisted in the raids. "We took off some bad people who have been terrorizing this community. This isn't a one-shot deal. We are going to be back, just like the bad guys will be back, and we're going to take them out."

The team of officers swooped down on the targeted houses -- most of them in the Druid Heights neighborhood, but a few in adjoining Upton -- and arrested 13 people.

Last night, police were searching for 27 suspects in connection with three to four drug organizations that operated in a 28-square block area roughly bordered by Laurens Street, Tiffany Alley, West North Avenue and Brunt Street.

Officers said they targeted the area after receiving numerous tips from residents, who complained about constant drug dealing.

Over the past two weeks, police said they had arrested 41 people, including four juveniles, in connection with the drug rings and seized 266 containers of cocaine, 192 containers of heroin, five handguns and $1,607 in cash.

One of those arrested last week was Joseph Crum, described by federal authorities as a convicted drug felon who was a major cocaine and heroin supplier to dealers in the Druid Heights area, including the Blue Funk organization.

Mr. Crum, who has addresses in New York and Baltimore County, was arrested after leading federal agents on a car chase from Pennsylvania Station to the Inner Harbor, authorities said.

Federal agents said they seized 2 1/2 -pounds of suspected cocaine and a bullet-resistant vest from Mr. Crum's 1990 Acura Legend.

Police said they staked out the train station where they spotted Mr. Crum because he routinely brought drugs into Baltimore by train from New York using young girls as couriers.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier termed the high-profile raid another success in his promise to take the corners back from drug dealers and return them to residents.

"Take a look around," he said, glancing at the groups of children playing where drug buyers would normally be lining up for a morning fix. "When you see kids on the street, and you see their faces smiling, it means that we are giving them a better place to live."

Officer Brian Pedrick of the Central District said Ms. Willis was standing on the sidewalk near her house when officers pulled up.

Inside the house, police said, they found 232 blue $5 packets of suspected heroin ready for street sale stored in a kitchen cabinet above the refrigerator.

Police said they also found $2,000 worth of suspected crack cocaine -- some already broken down into $10 rocks -- hidden in a gym bag along with packing and manufacturing materials and a train ticket to New York, where they said the drug organization has ties. They said the bag was kept in a bedroom among Ms. Willis' daughter's toys.

From other houses, police recovered a small amount of drugs, packing material and handguns.

The value of suspected heroin seized in yesterday's raids was estimated at $16,000.

Sgt. Michael Holcomb said most of the drugs were kept at the Bloom Street rowhouse, one of several used on a rotating basis as stash houses for the drug organizations.

Yesterday's raid was the fourth orchestrated by the Police Department since Mr. Frazier started work in January.

Maj. Leonard Hamm, commander of the Central District, which conducted yesterday's operation, said the autonomy he has under Mr. Frazier helps him answer complaints from residents about drug dealers.

Before, the major said, residents would call, and "there would a long period of delay, and we would have to keep telling people we were working on it. And we really didn't have any control over it."

Yesterday, a pleased Major Hamm stood in the middle of the street and said, "The neighborhood is satisfied."

Deborah Franklin, 42, a resident of the 500 block of Robert St., said, "I love it because I can't get no sleep at night or during the day [because of drug dealing], and we we're always dodging bullets. I hope [the police] come back again and again."

Marie Jordan, 64, who rents out a house in the 500 block of Robert St. that was raided, said she has been trying to evict the tenants for several weeks. "This is the first time I've ever seen something like this," she said. "I think it's going to help a lot."

But Mark Simms, 25, of the 1800 block of Etting St., where one house was targeted, dismissed the raid as a "publicity stunt."

"After a couple of days, it will all be the same again," he said. "It really doesn't do anything at all but let the police and politicians get on TV."

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