150 people arrested in east-county crackdown Three-month effort in Essex-Middle River based on New York model

September 05, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Borrowing a page from New York's mayor, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III ordered his police department to cast a large net for criminals in Essex-Middle River, an area he calls the most crime-ridden section of the county.

The catch this summer was impressive. But the long-term results could be even more critical, helping to determine the success of Ruppersberger's aggressive east-side revitalization strategy.

After an intensive, three-month law enforcement operation, officials said yesterday that 150 people were arrested or presented criminal citations for violations ranging from public intoxication to murder.

"Forget the buzzwords 'zero tolerance,' " Ruppersberger said, referring to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's controversial anti-crime policy that has shown a dramatic drop in the crime rate there.

"If the east side expects to attract new stable residents and eventually tourists, we have to make it much safer than it has been," Ruppersberger added.

In an unannounced trip in October, Ruppersberger went to New York and met with Giuliani -- like Ruppersberger, a former prosecutor -- about crime-fighting strategies.

One of the New Yorker's innovations struck Ruppersberger, who came away with some different approaches.

Daily crime snapshots

"Under Rudy Giuliani, they started analyzing crime statistics daily," Ruppersberger said.

"In our county, we were looking at police crime figures on a quarterly basis. That has changed. Now we know where the trends are developing. The important thing is that the people who live in these areas see a difference," Ruppersberger said.

Blanche Martin, president of the Villages of Tall Trees apartment complex and leader of the community center there, praised the results of the police work.

"It might sound silly, but old people aren't afraid to walk to the pay telephones or walk their dogs at night," she said.

"And now that we run criminal checks on people applying to move into Tall Trees, we're finding we get a different kind of applicant. The word has gotten around," she said.

In the east-side operation, Capt. Jim Johnson, Essex precinct commander, said a 12-officer team developed drug stings, recovered handguns, charged a suspect in a drug-related homicide and coaxed apartment managers to evict tenants arrested for narcotics violations.

"In one case, we got a search warrant for a house in Aero Acres and found eight guys sitting around in a circle smoking crack cocaine at 10 o'clock in the morning," he said.

"When we led them out of the house under arrest, members of the community applauded the police," he said.

Johnson said the operation, which ran from June 1 to Friday, was staffed by officers who received little overtime pay and, in some instances, canceled vacations to work.

Residents are the key

Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said the most important ingredient of the operation was the cooperation of residents.

"They now know we are sincere and we listen and respond," he said. "They know we're not some far-off agency that might get around to helping them with their neighborhoods."

Patrick Pomeroy, a community leader in Chase, said police cleaned a drug dealer from his neighborhood.

"The house was going 24 hours a day, cars and people all night long," Pomeroy said. "The police encouraged us to maintain a watch, keep diaries, take license tag numbers. The people were arrested, that activity has stopped."

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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