Baltimore celebrates National Night Out Residents gather outdoors across city to take a stand against crime

August 05, 1998|By Jacques Kelly and Jamie Stiehm | Jacques Kelly and Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's neighborhoods celebrated National Night Out Against Crime and promised that the eyes of law-abiding citizens would be trained diligently on criminals.

The annual event, now in its 15th year, drew crowds to a dozen corners in the city.

Police officers -- from the beat patrolman to the chief -- arrived at various Night Out parties by horse, squad car and bicycle, promising better protection and asking for help from the people they protect.

The 700 block of McKewin Ave. in Waverly was filled with the sound of hip-hop music and the scent of grilling hot dogs as some 150 residents gathered for a block party.

Fourteen-year-old Christina Seaborne, who organized the area's youths, said the purpose of the event was to send a message to a dozen young drug dealers who hang out near a corner store on Frisby Street.

Seaborne said she observed several of them mixing in the party crowd, and added she was afraid they would be back at their usual posts tomorrow. "They think it's cool," she said.

"Still," said police Maj. Robert Novak, commander of the Northern District who was at the party, "this is a threat to them -- a community coming together."

Other Night Out rallies were slated at Bond and Preston streets, Fremont and Pennsylvania avenues, the 1100 block of N. Mount St., the 1500 block of N. Gilmor St., the 1500 block of McKean Ave., the 1100 block of N. Carrollton Ave. and the 1500 block of Mosher St.

Homeowners left porch and entrance lights burning in a symbolic show of anti-crime sentiment.

Highlandtown turnout

In Southeast Baltimore, police estimated that 150 people stood on the sidewalk and marble steps in a show of anti-crime support at the corner of Baltimore Street and Highland Avenue in Highlandtown. Some carried signs. Others were dressed in old military uniforms.

"This is a very passionate community," said police Maj. Timothy J. Longo Sr., commander of the Southeastern District. "We're trying not only to reduce crime but to reduce the fear of crime."

Anti-drug objective

As Longo spoke, several neighborhood children petted a police officer's horse, which stood calmly on Highland Avenue.

"We want to rid this neighborhood of drugs -- completely -- not just move the dealing to another place," said Shirley Nash, a resident of the 3400 block of E. Fairmount Ave. and an organizer of Highlandtown's event.

"There's prostitution galore here, too," she said.

Nash stood alongside her husband, John -- they are leaders in the Baltimore-Highland Community Association -- and grilled hot dogs as neighbors arrived with trays of food.

"Some of our neighborhoods have some rough edges," said state Sen. Perry Sfikas. "This, however, is an incredible show of support. Certain things will not be tolerated here -- everything from loitering to loud music blaring to severe problems like drug dealing."

Sfikas said the mixed nature of the crowd, which he described as African-American, Latino and European, indicated that there was a broad base of support for the anti-crime effort.

'Committed community'

Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier appeared at several of the Night Out rallies.

"The key to this whole thing is a committed community -- every single block and every single neighborhood association. Every single piece makes it all work," Frazier said at the Highlandtown party.

Glancing at the corner of Baltimore and Highland, Frazier said, "I see a commitment we did not have before."

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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