City police arrest 51 in W. Balto. drug sweep

April 30, 1995|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore police stormed into West Baltimore's Franklin Square and Harlem Park communities yesterday, arresting 51 people on drug charges in the latest in a series of sweeps aimed at curbing drug trafficking and violence.

It was the eighth time in 13 months that city police have conducted such a search for people charged with dealing drugs. Yesterday's raids, called "Operation Westpack," were the result of a three-month investigation. Seeking 109 indicted adults and 17 juveniles, police with search warrants raided 19 homes.

Arrested in addition to 29 indicted adults were 18 who had not been charged previously. Four juveniles were apprehended, police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said.

Police were continuing to search last night for the remaining suspects.

Officers said they seized heroin and cocaine with a street value of more than $20,000, a handgun and between $1,200 and $1,500.

Maj. Robert F. Smith said the area involved has one of the worst crime records in the Western District, which he commands. Last year, nine homicides, 44 shootings, 132 robberies, 65 handgun violations and 588 drug arrests were reported in the section.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke watched yesterday afternoon as the police action drew to a close.

Mr. Frazier said he had met earlier yesterday with some residents of the neighborhood who had complained about crime. He said he wanted to assure them that the city was doing something, but could not tell them that the raids were about to take place.

An officer walked past a group of people sitting on the steps in the 1600 block of W. Fayette St. and pointed to two young children in the crowd. "We're doing this for them," he said.

Rebecca Clark, who lives in the 1600 block, said she was embarrassed that police swept into her community with such force and angry that they had not come years ago.

Mrs. Clark, a grandmother of 14, said the neighborhood has been a center of drug activity for a long time, but she doesn't allow it in front of her home.

"I don't let anybody bring so much as a beer can on my steps," she said.

She said the raids would reduce crime for a while. "It will calm down for a couple of days, or maybe a week," Mrs. Clark predicted. "But a new group will come when the scare is over."

Mr. Frazier said crime has dropped by 42 percent in neighborhoods targeted by a similar operation last year.

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