City ministers vow to fight drug dealing near churches

Clergymen want to revive plan to clean up corners

April 17, 2003|By Reginald Fields | Reginald Fields,SUN STAFF

Six years after starting a drug eradication plan that was not fully carried out, a group of church ministers is back trying to clean up Baltimore's toughest street corners.

"I think the clergy is still coming around to realize that we need to do something more to clean up these streets," said the Rev. Willie E. Ray of New Promise Land Community Church.

"We're asking every church in the city to claim a corner near them and take it back," Ray said, "and claim a vacant building near them and renovate it into a safe house for kids."

Ray and a handful of other ministers unveiled their plans at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street, just a few doors from Union Baptist Church, where they had met over lunch.

Ray envisions ministers walking arm-in-arm late at night to confront drug dealers on corners and then holding prayer sessions. He hopes churches will restore vacant houses and use them as places of recreation for children.

The ministers are big on ideas but acknowledge they are still putting in place an organization to carry them out.

Ray said yesterday's news conference was meant to send out a call for other ministers to get involved and that organizational meetings will be held later. At that point, specific corners for the plan would be selected.

"We want this to be a movement," Ray said.

In 1997, 22 ministers launched a similar program at Pennsylvania and Lafayette streets near a statue of Billie Holiday where drug dealing was rampant. That plan was suppose to cover 16 Baltimore corners.

Anyone interested in helping the ministers can call Union Baptist Church at 410-523-6880.

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