Thank you, New York, but we have enough thugs

November 25, 1995|By GREGORY KANE

I have a message for New Yorkers: Please keep your reprobates, dirtbags and other assorted human refuse at home. If necessary, build a moat around the city so that no one can enter or leave.

New York City officials are crowing about the 31 percent drop in the murder rate. I should think the murder rate would drop in the Big Apple, what with so many of its exiles and refugees wreaking havoc elsewhere.

Last fall I went to my aunt's funeral in Lancaster, Pa., which was not, my cousin Lewis Floyd assured me, the same place where I spent my college years. It was no longer the city of 60,000 where one murder a year shocked residents and shootings and gangs were nonexistent.

"Lancaster's changed," he told me. Gang shootings are now commonplace. Lancasterites no longer feel safe sitting outside on mild summer nights. The trouble, Lewis told me, is caused by people who have migrated from New York.

To be sure my cousin just wasn't some small-towner grousing about city slickers and pointing the finger at them without justification, I checked with Lt. John Fiorill of the Lancaster Police Department's community relations unit.

"For years we've said that Philadelphia and New York groups have come in and increased drug dealing," Lieutenant Fiorill confirmed. Recently it's been the youngsters -- 18, 19 and 20 years old. They come in and form their posses and try to take over a block."

One year, Lieutenant Fiorill recalled, Lancaster had as many as 14 murders. Compared to Baltimore's homicide rate, 14 murders are virtually nothing. But for Lancaster, compared to the city's peaceful years, it's a rate that jumped 14 times. Serious crime in Lancaster soared from a little under 1,200 incidents in 1969 to 4,135 incidents in 1994, according to Lieutenant Fiorill.

Anne Arundel County, another jurisdiction with a low murder rate, also has seen its share of New Yorkers, according to Lt. Michael Ireland, who commands the narcotics section of the police department there.

"I can tell you that they do come through Anne Arundel County on occasion," Lieutenant Ireland said. "They do some dealing down here." There is no organized gang of New Yorkers, the lieutenant stressed, just different individuals who "show up from time to time."

All the more reason to build that moat around New York. We simply don't know who may be coming, so let's just keep all the varmints out. The best way to do that is for New York to keep the varmints in.

Most Baltimoreans no doubt remember the sad tale of Tauris Johnson, the 10-year-old boy who was playing football outside his East Baltimore home on Nov. 4, 1993. Young Tauris was caught in a cross-fire between two rival drug gangs. Federal prosecutors have charged Eric Drayton, who lived in the Bronx, with firing the shot that killed the boy. Drayton was a bodyguard for his boss, Nathaniel Dawson Jr., another New Yorker who based his drug operation in the East Baltimore neighborhood where young Tauris lived.

Dawson was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to life without parole in the boy's death and that of Latisha Murphy -- who was killed before she could testify against him. The entire sordid episode could have been avoided -- and Tauris Johnson may have grown up to pursue the football career he wanted -- had New York authorities simply reined in Dawson and his thugs before they got here.

Baltimore police say New York gangs continue to plague the city, despite the fact that Dawson and his minions are now safely behind bars.

"Based on our intelligence we do believe there are people from New York participating in drug activity," said Officer Robert Weinhold, a department spokesman. He couldn't give a specific number of New Yorkers involved in local drug traffic, but heck, does he have to? As the tragic case of Tauris Johnson shows, if it's only a few, that's far too many.

Mind you, I'm not saying that Baltimore is a paradise, some crime-free haven sitting on the banks of the Patapsco. Our jails are bulging at the seams with our own home-grown reprobates. All the more reason we don't need New York's. But if the Big Apple insists on letting its miscreants go south, if officials there are adamant about not building that moat, then we should reciprocate.

We should release every drug offender now imprisoned in Maryland and give him or her a ticket to New York City. One way, of course.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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