Family's claim of harassment called hoax Members said neighbors forced them from home for helping police in drug raid

October 23, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Shortly after police arrested 60 people on drug charges in an East Baltimore neighborhood Friday, a family complained that because members helped police they were forced from their home by angry dealers who lived next door.

But authorities and religious leaders said yesterday that family members lied to police and a television reporter to get back at a neighbor with whom they were feuding, hoping police would intervene on their behalf.

Police declined to name the family involved.

Worried that news reports of the alleged incident would scare residents from helping police investigate drug networks, a group of ministers and detectives rallied yesterday to warn criminals that they will be turned in.

"People are not going to be intimidated for aiding the police," the Rev. Anthony Johnson of Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore, or CURE, said at the rally on the steps in front of CURE headquarters on Broadway attended by police and about a dozen clergy.

"That is the message we want to get out," Johnson said.

Maj. Wendell M. France, commander of the Eastern District station, called the incident "a cruel hoax" that undermined his efforts to rid streets of drug dealers. The east side has the city's most violent neighborhoods.

"No one was threatened," France said, adding that no charges will be filed against family members who submitted the initial complaint. "No one was forced from their home. We did not leave a family out alone."

The accusations came after a series of police raids Friday in which dozens of suspected drug users were arrested in East Baltimore.

One family told a reporter from WMAR-TV (Channel 2) and police that members had been forced from their home because they tipped undercover detectives to drug dealers. Their statements worried police, who have worked hard to gain the cooperation of reluctant residents.

CURE, a coalition of 261 East Baltimore churches, said it had trained members to walk neighborhood streets and report criminal activity and suspected drug houses to authorities.

The Rev. Gregory Perkins, director of People United for Living in a Safe Environment, or PULSE, offered some strong words for drug dealers in his community.

"You have done what racism could not do," he thundered. "Racism cannot rob us of our self-esteem and self-respect. But dope dealers have robbed us.

"You have made slaves of our men. You have made prostitutes of our women. You have stolen the innocence of our children."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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