Police, residents in West Baltimore take stand at infamous drug corner Morning, afternoon rallies deter dealers

August 01, 1998|By Paula Lavigne | Paula Lavigne,SUN STAFF

On a day considered most profitable for drug sales on West Fayette and Monroe streets, business was not as brisk as usual.

Law enforcement officials and neighborhood residents gathered yesterday morning and afternoon at the corner, made infamous by a recent book, to keep people with end-of-the-month paychecks from exchanging cash for the smorgasbord of drugs available there.

One officer estimated that at least $5,000 in business was lost.

"It's going to come back, but this is to let the community know we're sick and tired about it," said Frances Belton, a state probation agent who participated in the gathering.

Two three-hour street rallies -- one at 10 a.m., the second at 5 p.m. -- broke up the drug dealing. Baltimore police, Maryland parole and probation agents and state prison officials joined members of the Fayette Street Outreach community center and other centers in taking over the corner.

About 35 children from St. James Memorial United Methodist Church, 1901 W. Lexington St., and 10 adults squeezed onto the West Fayette corner in the morning. Many waved signs. The "Honk if you say no to drugs" sign generated several friendly waves and honks from passing motorists.

Some of the passers-by weren't nearly as friendly. John F. Albert, senior agent for the state Division of Parole and Probation, said drug buyers driving through the neighborhood shouted at him to get off the corner when they realized their suppliers had been chased away.

Ten people took up the post at 5 p.m., waving signs used in the morning.

The corner has long been known as the best place to buy all kinds of drugs, said Col. Ronald L. Daniel, who works in the city's crime-prevention office and used to patrol the area.

The supermarketlike drug sales and violence were chronicled in "The Corner," a book by former Sun reporter David Simon.

The corner also is part of an area of southwestern Baltimore designated one of the state's 36 HotSpot communities, where police and probation officers -- and residents -- work together to keep an eye on repeat offenders. Police patrol with state agents to find people violating parole and probation and apprehend them on the spot.

Officer Lawrence Brunt, who patrols the area and knows the drug traffic well, said that even if police saturated the corner, the drugs would just move elsewhere. Nevertheless, he estimated that yesterday's show of force cost the drug dealers at least $5,000.

Residents' reaction to the rallies was mixed.

Fayette Street resident Geraldine H. Jones said she hopes police will be able to do something about the repeat offenders in her area, especially youngsters. She said she has called the police and filed complaints. But "there's been no improvement," she said. "It's just gotten worse."

Edna M. Manns, president of the Fayette Street Outreach community center, was only a little more optimistic about the area's drug problem.

"No, it hasn't stopped," she said. "But it's not as bad."

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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