33 arrested in `heroin' sting at apartments

Operation at the complex is part of cleanup campaign in the Park Heights area

August 13, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

More than two dozen people were arrested at the Pall Mall apartments in Park Heights yesterday afternoon when their search for "blue-and-white" heroin was abruptly ended by a Housing Authority of Baltimore City reverse sting.

The housing authority police targeted the apartments, known as "The Ranch," in the 4200 block of Pimlico Road for 2 1/2 hours, luring would-be drug buyers into the complex's basement where they were arrested.

Thirty-three people -- from a frail 32-year-old man with a 15-year, $100 a day heroin addiction to middle-class suburbanites -- were arrested.

The police work is part of a larger effort to improve the neighborhood in the wake of the slaying of the Rev. Junior Lee Gamble on July 15 in front of his Quantico Avenue home.

10 city agencies act

Teams from 10 city agencies have swept through the neighborhood cleaning up trash.

In the past four days, city workers have demolished 17 homes, issued 37 sanitation notices, removed 67 tons of debris, pumped 19 storm drains, caught 10 stray animals and arrested 85 people on everything from outstanding warrants to drug charges.

The effort, called Extraordinary Comprehensive Housekeeping Operation, ends today.

"This is probably the most successful one we did in some time," said Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, whose agency is overseeing the project. "But I was surprised at the number of people who are feeding the Park Heights drug trafficking trade."

Although the Pall Mall complex is private, it has federally subsidized Section 8 units allowing the housing authority to police the area.

Arrests for drug possession

Most of those arrested were charged with attempting to possess drugs, but a few were charged with misdemeanor conspiracy or hindering a police operation.

"I don't do drugs. I can't go to jail for something I don't do," said Kesha L. Nance, 25, a maintenance employee at the Northwestern District police station.

Nance was charged with conspiracy because she drove her cousin to the apartment complex, police said.

Those arrested were given a choice between going to Central Booking and Intake Center or the "I Can-We Can" drug recovery center on North Avenue.

Housing authority spokesman Zack Germroth said six people chose the drug rehabilitation center.

Want more police presence

Park Heights residents worried that the police presence would be temporary.

"They can sweep through here every day, but if they don't keep coming back the drugs will be right back," said Rodney L. Griffin, 42, of the 2400 block of Loyola Southway.

Many of the young men hanging around Park Heights' street corners yesterday agreed.

"Drugs live," said Jeffrey Heiley, 20, who was standing on a corner at Pimlico Road and Boarman Avenue watching as police scuffled with a man who was allegedly resisting arrest. "They can beat a couple of people up, but the show don't stop."

Some of the apartment complex's children -- many 3 and 4 years old -- asked what kind of heroin was seized, which judge would hear the cases, and whose mother had been arrested.

Several said they were happy to see the police at work.

"I don't think it's right for them [dealers] to sell fivers over there," said a 10-year-old, as he watched the arrested climb into a police wagon. "Those people don't live here they just come here to mess up the place."

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