STROLLING along Yorkway in Dundalk on a chilly fall morning can be a delight to the eyes. A row of well-maintained, two-story, slate-roofed brick duplexes lines the west side of the gently curved street. Leafless sycamores stand like tall sentinels. The corridor looks like it was designed with much thought, and it was -- by the famed 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York and Roland Park in Baltimore.
But the picture isn't so peaceful on Yorkway at night.
Drug dealers operate out of a rental complex on the east side of the street, the York Park Apartments. Potential buyers cruise up and down with car radios blaring. Residents also say they hear gunfire many nights.
Baltimore County officials met with the community in September and outlined plans to acquire and raze the apartments. The county has followed a similar strategy of buying and demolishing substandard housing in the Essex-Middle River area.
Certain developments have become havens for drug dealing and petty crime, infecting the surrounding community.
The Ruppersberger administration -- not unlike their counterparts in Baltimore City -- has decided that purchasing and demolishing these blighted complexes is the best way to save these neighborhoods.
"The cancer has gone too far. The other methods aren't working," Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said. "The best thing is to cut it out."
The focus on Dundalk sharpened after the Nov. 17 execution-style killing of Linda Whitfield-Ugboaja in an alley behind York Park. The county can't buy and raze every derelict property. An intensified police presence, however, can reduce the open-air drug markets. County officials should also remove pay phones, such as the one at Shipway and Yorkway, frequented by drug dealers. Housing-code officials should levy the maximum fines on landlords who refuse to correct violations.
The county needs to acquire York Park Apartments and relocate the tenants. Middle-class flight has destroyed equally attractive neighborhoods in the city.
County officials must act quickly to help Dundalk.