Cleaning up Annapolis' public housing Troubled past: Drug bust and new, no-nonsense director should aid conditions.

March 06, 1998

RESIDENTS OF public housing in Annapolis may see some real improvements in their communities. The city Police Department, with the help of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, has broken up what it says is a drug ring that poured misery, crime and social deterioration into the city's housing projects.

The recent appointment of Patricia H. Croslan as executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority also promises to markedly improve conditions in the 1,100 federally subsidized units.

While taking down what was alleged to be the largest drug ring in Annapolis, police also may have diminished a source of racial tension in the state capital. The alleged ring leader, Curtis A. Spencer, was at the forefront of earlier controversies that cleaved blacks and whites.

Mr. Spencer, one of 18 people arrested Tuesday, spearheaded an effort called Friends of Black Annapolitans. It sought to turn public opinion against the Police Department 18 months ago after Officer David W. Garcia killed a black teen-ager and wounded another while breaking up an assault.

Although an internal police investigation and a subsequent county grand jury inquiry found no evidence that the officer had committed a crime, Mr. Spencer promoted the notion in rallies that city police were out to get black youths.

Among those arrested with Mr. Spencer were two top officials of his Black Annapolitans group. All three face federal charges of crack cocaine distribution.

Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson, who showed persistence and leadership in pushing this investigation, said it best: The ring "has had a stranglehold on this community for as long as anyone can remember."

Ms. Croslan, who previously managed public housing in suburban New York and Connecticut, wants to make sure drug gangs don't operate out of any of her units. In her two months in Maryland, she has evicted troublesome tenants. She has made it clear she won't tolerate criminal activity.

Her no-nonsense attitude, bolstered by the Police Department's vigilance, should make it more difficult for criminals to establish themselves in Annapolis' public housing.

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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