Bell unveils plan to sweep drugs from city streets

Candidate proposes zero-tolerance policy

July 16, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Standing on one of Baltimore's most infamous street corners yesterday, City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III held up a broom and pledged to sweep open-air drug markets out of the city.

The mayoral candidate unveiled his plan to implement the zero-tolerance policing strategy in Baltimore that has aided other cities. The crime-fighting effort would be complemented by treatment on demand for the city's estimated 59,000 drug addicts, Bell said.

"This broom is going to be our symbol from here on out," Bell said. "We're going to clean up Baltimore."

Bell stood at Fayette and Monroe streets, an open-air drug market that was chronicled in the 1997 book "The Corner" by David Simon and former homicide detective Ed Burns, surrounded by about two dozen members of the city police and fire unions.

Bell, who picked up the endorsement of the 70,000-member Metropolitan Council of the AFL-CIO last night, used the corner to announce his CLEAN (Coordinated Long-term Effort to Assisting Neighborhoods) program. Bell commended residents from surrounding blocks for working to clean up the area.

"This is a success story," Bell said. "This neighborhood has worked together."

The corner where he unveiled his drug-cleaning initiative has become a well-used backdrop for politics in the city's first mayoral election without an incumbent in 28 years. City Council presidential candidate David G. S. Greene kicked off his candidacy on the spot in January, and Northeast City Councilman and mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley ordered city crews to cut down illegal phones on the site last month.

Horace Smith, president and chief executive officer of Group Ministries Baltimore Inc., saw Bell's news conference and stopped to listen to his pledge. Smith, who is opening a center in West Baltimore to treat drug addicts, wanted more specifics on how Bell intends to accomplish his goal.

"What do you do after they come out of treatment?" asked Smith, a former addict who has been clean for 12 years. "There still has to be more things discussed."

Asked how he would pay for his effort in a city facing a projected $153 million budget deficit over the next four years, Bell replied: "We presently have the resources, we just have to be coordinated."

Yvonne Lucas, who bought a home last year in the 1800 block of W. Fayette St., welcomed Bell's pledge as something the neighborhood needs.

"I think he's sincere about what he's going to do," Lucas said.

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