Neighborhoods unite in march against crime

October 20, 1994|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Sean Green had never been to Guilford. The Baltimore neighborhood seemed a world away, even though the 11-year-old lives in the nearby Pen Lucy community.

That changed last night.

Sean and about 100 other residents of Pen Lucy and Guilford marched through both neighborhoods in an effort to show a united stand against crime. "It seems pretty nice here," he said, passing Guilford's stately homes and manicured lawns.

Leaders from both Northeast Baltimore communities -- which are separated by Greenmount Avenue -- said crime often spills from one neighborhood into the other and that no attempt has been made to fight shared problems jointly. Community leaders hope the march signals the start of cooperation in talking about issues and finding solutions.

Robert Nowlin, president of the Pen Lucy Community Association, said he often feels that when crimes are committed in Guilford, residents of that neighborhood believe Pen Lucy residents are to blame.

"And that wasn't always the case. But you always felt they were looking at us," he said. "We need a better understanding of each other."

Mr. Nowlin noted that after the August slayings of an elderly Guilford couple, Pen Lucy residents felt they were being targeted as suspects. The slain couple's grandson later confessed to the killings.

"It had turned into a black and white issue," Mr. Nowlin said. "It had connotations of possibly being someone black doing it. I was relieved when it wasn't."

The neighborhoods offer a stark contrast: Guilford's residents are predominantly white; Pen Lucy's are predominantly black. Guilford has mostly affluent homeowners; Pen Lucy has low- to middle-income residents, many of whom rent.

Yesterday's marchers got a glimpse of both communities, passing sprawling houses with neat lawns and aging rowhouses with dirt front yards; well-lighted street corners and dark pockets where drugs are openly sold; homes with elaborate playground sets and a trash-filled playground with a sign that read "drug-free zone."

Police said thefts are common to both communities, but Pen Lucy is also known for drug activity and violent crime.

When marchers reached Greenmount Avenue, leaders of both community associations shook hands.

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