Kenneth Devane, 61, Led Effort To Keep Neighborhood Safe, Free Of Drug Dealing

April 22, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Kenneth Devane called the police at least three times a week to report drug dealing in his East Baltimore neighborhood, friends and relatives said. Mr. Devane also broke up countless deals by standing in his doorway with a camera.

Mr. Devane, 61, who died Saturday of heart failure at his home, was known in his Greenmount North community as someone who cared about the neighborhood -- especially the youths -- and often led a one-man fight to keep it safe and clean.

"He did a lot of things that people would be too afraid to do and too lazy to do," said his son, Tyrone Devane of Baltimore. "He always felt that no one should have to live in fear or walk in trash -- and since no one else was willing to do anything about it, he took it upon himself."

For the past 20 years, Mr. Devane routinely swept the gutters and sidewalks near his home at 24th Street and Greenmount Avenue, and frequently cleared a nearby playground of scattered glass and debris.

He also tried to organize his neighbors to hold regular brainstorming meetings to provide suggestions for city officials to improve the neighborhood.

But he was perhaps most remembered for his attempts to rid the area of drug dealing. A man of slight build, Mr. Devane often would walk alone at night in the alleys and street corners where dealers gathered to dissuade them from drug trafficking.

"He'd even invite them into his house to talk about drugs to let them know he lived in the area and cared about them," said Margaret Knoll, a neighbor. "He'd say, `Why don't y'all just stop it' and if that didn't work he'd say, `Come on and sit down and talk about.' "

And if that didn't work, he would stand in his door with a Polaroid camera and take pictures of the drug dealers and buyers.

"Most of the time he didn't even have film in his camera, but they didn't know that," said Willie Greene, a friend and neighbor. "They'd all turn and walk away when he started clicking. He took a lot of abuse for his camera, but he felt he had to use means other than the people to get the neighborhood safe."

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Devane graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1953. In high school, he developed a love for long-distance running and won many local meets. However, he did not receive an athletic scholarship and didn't attend college.

"He always thought of himself as a runner and kept himself in great shape. He wanted to go to college and some school should have given him the chance," his son said. "When he was 60, he'd still get up early in the morning and run about five miles and make everyone else look bad. Dad looked more like he was 40 than 60."

Mr. Devane served in the Army from 1953 to 1955, and upon his discharge worked in maintenance and later as a deliveryman for the former Green Spring Dairy on West 40th Street until the early 1970s. He worked in construction from 1974 until he retired last year.

Mr. Devane married Caroline Davis in 1956. She died in 1994.

Funeral services have not been finalized. His son said several friends and neighbors plan to place a wreath on the fence at the playground at 24th Street and Greenmount Avenue.

"Probably a broom would be a better idea," his son said. "It's something that he would have really appreciated."

Other survivors include a son, Kenneth Devane of Wilmington, Del.; a brother, Charles Devane of Elkridge; two sisters, Yvonne Parker of Washington and Phylis Hall of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/22/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.