Park is a model in crime fight Showcase: In the Eastern District, Shuter Street Park was the showcase for National Night Out Against Crime.

August 07, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Richard Irwin and Michael James contributed to this article.

Baltimore police and neighborhood leaders set up a party in a troubled east side park yesterday and invited residents to a crime-free night out as part of a symbolic takeover of city streets overwhelmed by urban crime.

For a day, Shuter Street Park in the 1700 block of Ashland Ave. became a showcase with laughing children and adults, marching bands and colorful booths lining the street instead of the usual gathering of junkies and drug dealers.

"We're hoping to bring the community out. Folks have been behind closed doors for too long," said police Maj. Odis L. Sistrunk, Eastern District commander. "We want to unite the community to help us keep these streets clean."

The park near Johns Hopkins Hospital usually is littered with broken glass and drug needles, but it was cleaned to launch the 13th annual National Night Out Against Crime. The night out is a national effort to inspire residents to get involved in their communities. Baltimore police said yesterday they are planning to attack drug activity in the park.

Yesterday, the curious and the interested walked among information booths run by community organizations while police circulated fliers about neighborhood watch groups. Residents expressed appreciation for the police presence and the cleanup effort, but some warned it will take more than just a block party to drive out crime.

"They definitely got things better," said Barbara Epps, who moved to the area a year ago. "But if [police] leave, it'll go back to where it was before they came."

Event organizer was Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition Inc., which is in charge of revitalization efforts in the area.

Police say they have been cracking down recently on drug problems in the neighborhood. More than 40 people were arrested in a recent drug raid, they said.

The rest of the city didn't take a break from crime, according to police officials, who reported that yesterday was an average night for lawlessness in city neighborhoods.

Statistics weren't immediately available on the number of violent crimes, but police said they had at least one homicide yesterday -- a 22-year-old East Baltimore man killed by a shotgun blast to the stomach in the 800 block of Lemmon St. in South Baltimore.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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