As a crime summit approaches and a survey finds public mistrust of police, the beat goes on for one Northern District officer who patrols the crime-prone Pen Lucy area.
"It's the passion that I have," said Officer Edwin Albino, 37, of Edgewood, a nearly eight-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department and a Puerto Rico state police officer before that. "As soon as I wake up in the morning and put my uniform on, there is a sense of pride. I will work in any (police) district, because I'm representing Baltimore City police. It feels like home. It feels nice and warm."
Albino, a longtime Baltimore Orioles fan, grew up in Puerto Rico and was recruited to Baltimore in 2006.
"The only thing I knew about Baltimore was the Baltimore Orioles," he said.
He bounced around from the Northern District to the Southeastern District to the Northeast District for a short time "and then back home" to the Northern in January of 2013.
Albino said in an interview and in a recent speech to the Northern District Community Council, a citizens advisory group, that his devotion to his job has taken a toll on his marriage, and that he and his wife, who is also a city police officer, are separated.
His professional home away from home is Post No. 25, a north and northeast Baltimore beat that is bounded on the east by The Alameda, on the west by Greenmount Avenue, on the north by 43rd Street and on the south by 33rd Street.
Its epicenter is Pen Lucy, where the formal but affable Albino chatted last week with a group of seven men, some of them unemployed, who were hanging out in the 4400 block of Old York Road near Mullan Park. The pocket park has been adopted by the nonprofit group United As One and is being renovated with support from City Hall, and with suggestions that Albino has personally made to city officials. He was not sure whether a small basketball court in the park would be expanded.
"I have asked for a bigger basketball court," he said, dressed in a spit-and-polish police uniform. "A full-size basketball court is what I asked for."
Meeting of the minds
As Albino patrols his beat, organizers are preparing for the third annual North Baltimore Public Safety Summit in the student center at Morgan State University on Saturday, April 26, starting at 8:30 a.m.
A collaborative effort of the York Road Partnership, the Northeast Community Organization (NECO), and HARBEL Inc., the summit seeks to bring together resources and information to make neighborhoods safe, according to a news release issued by the office of City Councilman Bill Henry, who represents the area and will moderate a panel consisting of Council President Bernard C. Jack Young, city State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.
Co-organizer Eileen Gwin, of Lake Walker, said this year's safety summit will stress the importance of partnerships.
"You can't sit back and wait for the Police Department to solve the problem," said Gwin, former president of the York Road Partnership. "You can't wait for the mayor's office to solve the problem. It takes real partnerships, instead of pointing fingers."
Gwin said about 100 people are expected to attend, many of them representing various organizations and institutions such as area colleges and universities. Each will be asked to talk for five minutes about their groups, "so that people will understand all the resources that are available to them," she said.
The crime summit comes as a recent survey finds that 9 percent of city police say morale is "good," and public faith in police to do their jobs effectively is low in several categories.
"We've got a little work to do," Batts told the Northern District Community Council on March 19.
But Albino got a big hand when he addressed the group after Batts, as part of a Northern District initiative to introduce the advisory council to a new officer at each meeting.
In an interview last week, Albino said he is upset about the survey.
"We don't want the city against us," Albino said, noting that he makes a point of getting out of his police cruiser and walking the streets whenever possible, whether it's talking to business owners, or to parents about their children being truant from school. He also often eats a meal on his beat.
"I want them to know me and who is their post officer," he said. "It takes one person to make a change" in public perceptions.
Making a comeback
In Pen Lucy there are several properties of note. One is a church across the street from Mullan Park. The church used to be Friendly Food Market, known as "Yellow" for its brightly painted storefront.
The store's owner, Byong Wan Pak was fatally shot there by a robber in November 1997.
"That was a long time ago," said one of the older men in the group of men at the park, nodding sagely at the memory of the much-publicized case.
The other property of note is at 3921 Old York Road, where Danielle Darring, of Delaware, and her brother, Frank Samuels II, said they plan to spend $50,000 to $60,000 to convert a former police substation and community center into a 10-bed assisted living facility called The Oscar House, in honor of their grandfather, Oscar C. Hoggs, a pastor, who died in 2010. They hope to open this summer for residents 62 and older.
"We kind of thought the community needs it," Darring said.
"The community is coming back," said Samuels, who found the building while scouting locations.
It's not the kind of community where people are eager to talk to police or the press, much less give their names.
"I'm in a bad mood," one man told Albino as he bought lottery tickets in a nearby convenience store. "I'm losing."
But the men at the park chatted and joshed comfortably with Albino, who has made a name for himself in the neighborhood.
"It's the respect you get when you treat people with respect," Albino said. "I want to get to know who they are. I want to get to know my community. I'm really jealous about my post. I want to know everything about it."