Middle East park is center of anti-drug effort Parade, picnic to kick off 'Night Out Against Crime'

August 05, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Little Shuter Street Park was built nearly two decades ago for children. But the East Baltimore playground was overtaken by drug dealers more interested in creating havoc than good will.

Police had enough, and in the past month officers cracked down on crime in the Middle East neighborhood, in the shadow of Johns Hopkins Hospital and in the heart of the federally designated empowerment zone.

Using the park as a community centerpiece, police, community groups and hospital officials are planning a parade and picnic starting tomorrow afternoon -- a kickoff for National Night Out Against Crime.

"Starting then, we will have real zero-tolerance," said Maj. Odis L. Sistrunk, commander of the Eastern District. "We are not going to stand for any type of criminal activity around this park."

Shuter Street Park is in the center of a block off Ashland Avenue, where a carriage house used to stand, and is surrounded by rowhouses. It has broken swing sets and overgrown grass littered with broken bottles and drug needles.

"Over the years, children have been displaced and it has gone downhill," said Sistrunk, who added that plans are under way to replace broken equipment. "We are trying to revitalize and renovate it and make it a safe place for children."

The monthlong drug operation netted more than 40 arrests -- 19 of the suspects were indicted by a grand jury on drug charges before the raids -- and a substantial amount of guns and narcotics.

The raids were in the heart of the empowerment zone, an area of East Baltimore earmarked for part of a $100 million city revitalization grant. Johns Hopkins Hospital plans to work with residents to keep the neighborhood safe.

Police also targeted the area as part of National Night Out, in which residents come out of their homes and vow to take back the streets from drug dealers.

Sistrunk said the Department of Public Works has scheduled a cleanup of the community today. At 3: 30 p.m. tomorrow, the parade will wind through Middle East streets and end at Shuter Street Park, where there will be free food and entertainment until 10 p.m.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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