Police raid eight houses in one block Display of force focuses on violence-heavy area

July 30, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

With shootings and killings piling up in two Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods, police decided it was time to make a public display of force. Yesterday they raided eight houses in one block, sending in a force of 80 officers.

Police said the seven people arrested in the 400 block of S. Pulaski St., while not directly responsible, contributed to a violent year in Shipley Hill and Carrollton Ridge. Nine people have been killed and 17 more shot in the two communities since January.

"I would say that for at least the next two days, this will have an immense impact," said Maj. John L. Bergbower, commander of the Southwestern District.

Last year, 37 homicides occurred in his sprawling district, which stretches from Violetville on the south to Walbrook on the north. This year, the homicide count stands at 33.

"How do you stop somebody who is bent on killing someone else?" Bergbower asked. "These aren't random killings. These are drug-related assassinations."

Drug raids such as the one conducted yesterday are common throughout the city. But raiding eight houses on one block shows how some streets can be overrun by crime. Police said they observed private citizens and undercover officers buying narcotics at the raided premises.

Police said those arrested were working on their own and not connected to a larger drug group or gang, so officers didn't expect to seize large quantities of drugs. Police said they confiscated three handguns and small amounts of cocaine and heroin.

The suspects were charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute, police said.

The spectacle of 30 police cars speeding into the block and officers knocking down doors -- including three in a row -- drew dozens of spectators who gathered at Samuel F. B. Morse Elementary School, across the street from some of the raided houses.

"Drug houses are everywhere, not just here," complained Robert Fowler, 48, who has lived on a street just off South Pulaski all his life. "You close down one drug house and another one just opens up in its place."

Police raided a rowhouse where Denise Rich, 25, lives, but didn't find any drugs and didn't arrest anyone. "People like to sit on their steps and the police think they are doing something wrong," Rich complained.

But the majority of residents interviewed were pleased with the raids. None, however, wanted to be identified, and the collective silence told volumes about the problems. "I don't want my house burned down," said one elderly woman as she retreated inside her residence.

Suspects didn't like the raids, either. "It's just a bag of weed," one complained. "That's all there was. Nothing else."

An officer walked by and added, "Yeah, and scales, bullets, drug paraphernalia. What else you got in there?"

Police said they seized four bags of marijuana, 13 vials of crack cocaine and a Ruger .22-caliber handgun.

South Pulaski Street is in the heart of a state-designated HotSpot zone, one of a select group targeted for grant money to pay for extra patrols, which work closely with other city and state agencies to deny drug dealers the space they need to operate.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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