Annapolis fights record increase in drug violence


Two wars are raging in Carrie Dickerson's view of the world.

"There's a bloody war going on over in the Middle East," the Annapolis woman says. "And there's one going on right here."

The war right here is against drugs. Annapolis, the state capital, has experienced a recent surge in drug-related violence and murders in its long-troubled public housing projects. City officials and residents are grappling with responses, ranging from revitalizing neighborhood watch groups to fencing off the public housing projects.

"The first time I heard about drugs was in the '60s," says Dickerson, a resident of Eastport Terrace and one of about 5,000 residents of federally subsidized housing in a city of 31,000. "The first time I noticed it where I live was not too long after I moved in. I could see it in their eyes," she says.

Annapolis' first murder of the year occurred Jan. 15 outside the Eastport Terrace apartments. Police were unsure whether the slaying was drug-related. However, the victim was rumored to be a former police drug informant.

A record five murders occurred in Annapolis last year. Police concluded that four were drug-related and suspect the fifth may have been. There were three murders in 1989.

While residents and officials readily admit the drug problem is citywide, all of the murders occurred in or near the city's 10 public housing developments, whose tenants are predominantly black.

The complexes are on the outskirts of Annapolis, better known to outsiders for its trendy City Dock area and quaint historic alleys.

For all the housing projects' problems, there's a waiting list of 750. Another 350 people are awaiting Section 8 rent subsidies, says Harold S. Greene, who two years ago was named executive director and given orders to clean up the troubled Annapolis Housing Authority.

"Since 1972, Annapolis has had to provide public housing because Anne Arundel County wouldn't do it," says Roger "Pip" Moyer, the authority's deputy director.

The county's failure to provide public housing other than in Annapolis was an intentional effort to "keep blacks in one area," contends Moyer, a former mayor.

Focusing on current problems, Annapolis residents and officials are seeking ways to stem drug use and drug-related crimes.

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins yesterday announced a new program to renew residents' involvement in reporting drug activity. Under the "Drug Free Neighborhood Project," the city neighborhoods must show their commitment to the effort by collecting signatures from 50 percent of residents who agree to report suspicious activity to police.

The effort is similar to Annapolis' "Neighborhood Watch" crime-fighting program. However, of the 85 original participants in that program, only a quarter remain active.

"Annapolis' problem can still be dealt with," says Matthew Thomas, a member of the Committee for A Drug Free Annapolis. "We can still get a handle on it.

Hopkins also is planning to introduce legislation next month calling for a curfew from 11 p.m. or midnight to 6 a.m. for teen-agers.

City Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, has proposed putting up fences around the housing projects to keep out drug dealers. Some residents complained that fences would be used to keep them in, and other critics likened them to a Berlin Wall.

However, Gilmer says he has received only two calls criticizing his proposal and that many have praised it.

Greene says the idea would not work because public access streets would be shut off to people who live near the housing projects. As an alternative, the housing authority is working to change the configuration of the units so only tenants will have access to entrances and exits.

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