City launches cleanup of 'corner' area Agencies' effort centers on Fayette and Monroe

December 09, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

What can 250 city employees, from police officers to pothole fillers, accomplish in one day at a cost of $9,000?

They cleared 20 storm drains, boarded up eight houses, painted 15 signposts, caught two stray dogs, trimmed seven trees, arrested 15 suspected drug dealers, seized three handguns and confiscated $900 in suspected crack cocaine and heroin.

Workers from nine city agencies and one state agency converged on a 52-square block area in West and Southwest Baltimore yesterday to launch a weeklong cleanup of economically depressed neighborhoods with festering drug problems.

The initiative -- the 60th cleanup by the city's Department of Housing and Community Development -- is called "Operation Corner" and is centered at Fayette and Monroe streets.

It is the corner depicted in a recent book called "The Corner," in which the authors spent a year documenting life at Fayette and Monroe, and chronicled generations of drug addicts and the cycle of violence and despair that results.

City Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, who grew up around the corner from the site, said the book by former Sun reporter David Simon and former homicide Detective Ed Burns was the catalyst for the operation.

"We came here because of what this corner represents," Henson said at a news conference at the corner, which was blanketed by uniformed police officers.

"The book reminded us that this was a notorious and nefarious area that we ought to spend time looking at," he said.

Henson pointed to a store and said that since he went to high school in the area, Fayette and Monroe was known as the place to buy drugs on the west side.

"This area has always been known as the place to get drugs," agreed Police Col. Robert Smith, commander of the Field Operations Bureau. "I've heard that this place had the best drugs."

Henson said the operation -- which encompasses seven neighborhoods, including Franklin Square, Union Square and Boyd Booth -- cannot address larger concerns, such as the struggles of families trying to break the cycle of drug use.

City employees will spend the week repairing streets, sending social workers into homes, clearing gutters and alleys, arresting drug dealers and trying to restore civic order to an area they acknowledge has been neglected by city officials.

Henson estimated the cost at $9,000 a day.

"We intend to hold these 52 square blocks," Henson told reporters. "We have no intention of letting the corner go back to what the corner was."

Pub Date: 12/09/97

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