Schmoke opens anti-crime effort, urges residents to pass along drug dealers' names in envelopes

March 05, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke kicked off his latest anti-crime effort last night at a Northwest Baltimore community meeting, where envelopes were distributed in the hope that residents would identify drug dealers and open-air markets in their neighborhoods.

The meeting at Pimlico Middle School was the first of nine Schmoke will hold throughout the city this month to talk with residents about their concerns.

Issues such as education, zoning and sanitation were touched upon last night, but the focus was on crime, and the distribution of the distinctive envelopes printed with the word "POLICE" in black, block letters and "confidential" underlined in red.

"I am telling you that we are committed to working with you in partnership, being firm but fair, in trying to remove these guns from the streets of our city," Schmoke said.

Schmoke has made the effort to take illegal guns off the streets a priority in his anti-crime strategy. He devised a gun buyback program last month after a 3-year-old boy was slain in a Southwest Baltimore barbershop.

More than 1,000 guns were collected at $100 each on the first Saturday. It was suspended on its second Saturday when police uncovered a scheme to pawn off junk guns.

The names or "hot spots" that are mentioned in the envelopes will be compiled by police and logged into a computer data base. Those names that come up often will merit attention.

Schmoke reminded the audience that it was an illegal gun that was at the center of a police shooting Saturday in Upton in West Baltimore.

According to police, Sean Freeland Sr., 23, pointed a gun at one of two officers, leading to a struggle over the weapon in a dark, narrow stairwell. A backup officer fired four shots, hitting Freeland in the chest and killing him.

"We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this was a tragedy, but it was a tragedy that began with the fact that there was a person carrying a gun illegally on the streets of our city," Schmoke said to loud applause.

"It did not begin with police inside of the house," Schmoke said. "It began in response to a call of someone carrying a gun illegally on the streets of our city."

Stephen George, a member of the Park Heights Network Community Council, expressed concern that drug dealers might use the envelope program to take care of turf disputes or that it might be used to harass black males.

"You have to be very careful, very careful, that this effort is not sabotaged like your first effort was sabotaged," George said.

"You're absolutely correct that some drug people are going to do it to other drug people," Schmoke said. "The issue is, what are they doing with the guns out on the street? Either one, that's the problem."

"But we sure aren't going to open this up for harassment. We're not going to use profiles and we're not going to just say this is open season on black men," the mayor said.

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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