3 arrested in raid of apartment building

Officials conduct sweep through Stafford Towers in Mount Vernon

April 02, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police, housing inspectors and social workers swept through an apartment building in historic Mount Vernon yesterday morning, responding in force to complaints from tenants and area residents about drugs and crime.

The raid at 7: 30 a.m., carried out by the city Housing Authority at the Stafford Towers Apartments just north of the Washington Monument, led to the arrests of three people wanted on misdemeanor warrants.

Authorities checked each of the 96 federally subsidized apartments, looking for everything from leaky pipes to cases of child abuse.

City officials routinely conduct such operations at publicly owned complexes.

But Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said yesterday's sweep marks the first such effort in a privately owned building.

"Our intention is not to arrest a lot of people," Henson told reporters in the lobby after the raid. "When we leave, we want this to be a safe building."

Leases signed by people on Section 8 federal assistance gives housing officials the authority to enter the homes or apartments without warrants, as long as they give owners 72 hours' notice. Henson said warning notices were sent Monday.

Throughout the morning, police cars blocked the nearby streets in the midtown neighborhood that is home to restaurants, 19th-century rowhouses and the Peabody Institute for music students.

The 11-story Stafford Towers at Charles and Madison streets was built as an exclusive hotel in 1892 in what was then considered the heart of elite Baltimore.

Gwen Wise, a 19-year resident, said problems have included drug deals, rowdy visitors, two recent arson fires in hallways and break-ins.

"It's about time they came in here to clean it up," she said.

For several years, the Stafford's neighbors have complained to city officials about drug dealing.

"There are syringes all over our roof," said Steve Johnson, president of Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association, who also serves on the board of the co-op apartment house that abuts the Stafford. "I've been approached to buy drugs on the street outside the Stafford."

Last month, architects working on a master plan for the area told the Mount Vernon Cultural District that the Stafford was one of the neighborhood's most troubled addresses.

Henson said the building's managers, Aimco Management Co., asked for help. He noted that Mount Vernon "is historic and important in this city," and that complaints from homeowners and others in this neighborhood will be taken seriously.

Sun staff writer Jacques Kelly contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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