An 11-year-old boy charged last month with dealing drugs has returned to his former East Baltimore neighborhood, bragging to police officers about his publicized arrest and raising concerns that he has taken up the illegal trade anew.
The boy, who said in an interview last month that he grew up idolizing drug dealers, has been spotted by the police and a local shopkeeper on at least three occasions in recent weeks at street corners that are known for heavy drug trafficking in East Baltimore's Oliver community.
The boy's 34-year-old mother said Thursday that he had been returning late at night to their Pimlico residence and that she made an inquiry to the state Department of Juvenile Services after learning that her son was returning regularly to the old neighborhood.
"He's been keeping late hours," said the boy's mother in an interview this week near her Pimlico home.
"I can't do nothing with him. He's unmanageable. The best thing to do is putting him in someone else's hands," she said.
The mother, who also has a 17-year-old son and an 18-month-olddaughter, initially said she was unaware of her son's whereabouts after school or of his return to the streets of East Baltimore. She later conceded that she had begun to suspect recently that the 11-year-old had resumed his involvement in drugs.
She also said she had not given her son any money to travel back and forth between Pimlico and East Baltimore and was not aware that her son had been bringing home money or new clothes when he returned, as was the case following his arrest last month.
Following her 11-year-old's arrest, the mother said she was moving away from East Baltimore so that her son would have no excuse to return to the drug-plagued community.
The mother said her youngest son had ignored her requests not to travel to East Baltimore, and she openly discussed the possibility of having authorities intervene.
The mother, who does not have a telephone, called the Department of Juvenile Services Thursday afternoon from a friend's home to inquire briefly about getting help.
She broke off the conversation, saying she would call back on Friday.
But a Juvenile Services spokeswoman said the mother did not call back, despite four calls made by a counselor to the friend's house to follow up on the initial inquiry.
Normally, Juvenile Services would take no action in the case of a youth being released after arrest until the matter comes before a juvenile master or there is a subsequent arrest.
The 11-year-old's case will not be heard until at least October, said DJS spokeswoman Jacqueline Lampell, adding that the department could intervene and place the childin counseling programs before then if the boy's mother filed a need-of-supervision complaint.
"We attempted to reach the mother, but we were unsuccessful," said Ms. Lampell.
"We would like to hear from her. We would like to help this child. He's not in our system at all. At this time, he's not under our jurisdiction. If his mother were to file a complaint with DJS, we could start the process," she said.
The 11-year-old had moved with his mother to Pimlico shortly before his arrest early in May by Eastern District narcotics officers at Federal and Regester streets -- several blocks from the Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School, where he was repeating the fourth grade as a special education student.
The boy, who has a learning disability and reads on a second-grade level, has had behavioral and discipline problems in class, according to his mother and school officials.
The boy was transferred to a Pimlico area elementary school shortly after his arrest.
But within a week, he was sighted for the first time in his old East Baltimore neighborhood.
An area barber, who asked not to be identified, said he chased the boy away from his Federal Street storefront, where he believed the boy was dealing drugs.
He said the boy returned shortly afterward to confront him with two older youths, but the barber said he locked his front door to avoid contact.
Since then, the 11-year-old has been identified in the same area by two uniformed police officers -- including the one who initially arrested him and found $173 in cash and two vials of cocaine in his sweat pants.
In each instance, the officers said, he walked up to them and brazenly introduced himself as the boy whose arrest photograph made the front page of the newspaper.
Two weeks ago, the boy walked up to Officer Chris Goldbeck -- the policeman who made the May 3rd arrest -- and reintroduced himself.
The boy "acted like he was a celebrity," Officer Goldbeck said.
The most recent encounter occurred last Monday, about 7:30 p.m.
"He came up to me with a group of eight or nine other boys," said Officer Regis L. Phelan, who met the boy at the corner of Washington and Federal streets, where his K-9 unit had been called in to investigate a drug-related incident.
"He was very confident," said Officer Phelan. "The boy talked with a lot of confidence. A few of his friends were joking about him being arrested, then he walked up and said, 'Yeah, it was me. It was me the "knockers" [police] got with the drugs.' "
Officer Phelan and members of the Eastern's drug enforcement unit said they believed the 11-year-old isbeing supplied, paid and protected by one of several distinct organizations trafficking drugs in the Oliver community -- which is part of an area code-named "Zone Four" by the police.
It is one of seven designated zones that make up the district.
"He's got to be working for someone else," said Officer Phelan. "For someone that little to muscle in on that territory, he'd be long gone. You wouldn't waste your time. It's tough enough for an adult with a gun and eyes in the back of his head to survive there."
An hour after the boy walked up to Officer Goldbeck on May 30, a district narcotics officer shot and killed a gun-wielding drug suspect from New York City barely a block away.
Officers Goldbeck and Phelan said they would have detained the boy had they known he no longer lived in the neighborhood. And the Eastern District commander, Maj. Alvin A. Winkler, said on Friday that officers would detain the boy if he is seen in the neighborhood again.
In Zone Four so far this year, police have tallied 22 drug-related shootings and more than 170 drug-related arrests. Six children between the ages of 10 and 12 were arrested there in the past month on charges ranging from dealing drugs to armed robbery -- part of what law enforcement officials see as a trend of drug organizations taking advantage of younger children to sell or carry their wares.
Oliver community activists and residents have also voiced concern for the safety of young children who play on the streets, fearing that theycould be caught in the cross fire of a current turf war between rival drug organizations.
Despite the recent sightings, repeated attempts to locate the boy this week both in his Pimlico neighborhood and in East Baltimore were unsuccessful.
"It's a very dangerous place, especially for children," said Eastern District narcotics Officer Ed Bochniak, who is assigned to Zone Four. "The kids are at high risk. Any kids that frequent an area used by drug dealers stand a good chance of gettingeither involved or hurt.
"Apparently, somebody's made this kid feel that he's a celebrity, and he enjoys it. That's the only reason he would approach a police officer like that," Officer Bochniak said. "This whole situation is amazing.
"It's not surprising that he came back. We see it all the time. We know the faces. We lock them up as children; then we keep locking them up as adults. We know just about everybody. I think he's playing with danger every day he goes out on those streets."