Eastside drug sweep yields 19 arrests Suburban buyers were target of 2-day operation

November 17, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police targeting suburban drug buyers have arrested laborers, a train inspector and a nurse in an effort to clear inner-city neighborhoods besieged by the flourishing cocaine and heroin trade.

Over the past two days, officers secretly watching street corners on the city's Eastside saw dozens of drug transactions. Police then sent arrest teams out to grab drivers and seize their contraband and, possibly, their cars.

The seven suspected drug buyers -- who were among a total of 19 people arrested -- live in White Marsh, Edgewood and Dundalk, along with Southeast and Northeast Baltimore. One said he was on his way to visit a sick uncle in the hospital. Another, a licensed practical nurse in uniform, was headed for work at a nursing home in Towson.

"We are trying to send a message to all the buyers out there that this district is not user-friendly," said Eastern District Lt. Anthony G. Cannavale, who led the sweep dubbed Operation Stop, Shop and Forfeit.

"We are going to constantly come up with innovative operations so people won't know where we're coming from or what we're doing next," said Maj. Odis L. Sistrunk Jr., commander of the Eastern District.

The drug users "have a habit, and they have to find drugs somewhere. I just don't want them over here," he said.

Police started cracking down on the suburban buyers in September, when, in two days, they arrested more than 20 professionals, homemakers and students who were charged with buying drugs from dealers at West North Avenue and North Washington Street.

That operation -- which also included the arrests of six people charged with being dealers who apparently had carved out a niche selling to suburbanites -- was hailed by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke at the time as a way to make "life uncomfortable" for out-of-town buyers. Their purchases help keep money flowing to street-corner dealers, police said.

The arrests in September apparently scattered the drug dealers, who moved elsewhere. For a few weeks, trafficking slowed as word filtered out that police were watching. But it picked up again this week on different corners.

All of the arrests Wednesday and yesterday were made in the 1800 block of N. Durham St. and the 800 block of N. Wolfe St.

Police made their first bust Wednesday about 1:30 p.m., when officers saw a woman in a Toyota Tercel -- a car they said they had seen in three other operations -- buy drugs from a dealer on Durham Street. Officers followed her to Federal and Wolfe streets, where Lieutenant Cannavale turned on his lights and siren.

Other officers in unmarked cars quickly boxed in the car, and the driver nervously put her hands up as detectives swarmed around. "Please, can I talk to you?" pleaded Judy Kaufman, 37. "I'm not a danger."

The visibly shaken Ms. Kaufman, who was wearing a white nurse's uniform with her name tag attached, told officers she had just bought cocaine and was on her way south to buy heroin.

She is a licensed practical nurse at the private Pickersgill nursing home in Towson.

Police said they found six vials of crack cocaine -- each costing $10 -- in her car, along with a bloody napkin and five syringes that she said came from the city's needle-exchange program. Ms. Kaufman, who lives in the 800 block of Windstream Way in Edgewood, was charged with possession of cocaine. Police also seized her car.

Brant Hart, executive director of the nursing home where Ms. Kaufman works, said he was surprised to learn of her arrest.

After watching several suspected drug transactions on Durham Street, police arrested Christopher Carter, 28, of the 1800 block of W. North Ave. and charged him with drug distribution. Last night, police raided the house where he had been arrested and arrested 11 people inside and seized cocaine and heroin worth $3,000.

Later in the afternoon, police found a new location on Wolfe Street and started a series of arrests that began with a husband and wife who live in Armistead Gardens, an apartment complex in Northeast Baltimore.

Officers said they watched as the couple pulled up to a Wolfe Street rowhouse and the woman went up to the door and returned. When stopped, the woman denied having drugs, and her husband said he didn't know whether his wife had bought any.

"If you got it, they're going to find it," Jesse Moore, 38, told his wife as officers searched the couple at Wolfe and Orleans Street, near Johns Hopkins Hospital. "I know we were doing what we shouldn't have done. We were wrong. Take me to jail and not her."

Mr. Moore of the 1200 block of Quantril Way was charged with conspiracy to buy drugs. He said he is a railroad car inspector for Conrail and was on his way to visit a sick relative. He broke down as Lieutenant Cannavale asked him why he had come to East Baltimore. "I don't know why I do anything that I do," Mr. Moore answered.

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