County police Officer Lance Anderson didn't think the Valley Brook Apartment complex in Glen Burnie could be swept clean of drugs in just one month.
But since April 1, he and a team of six officers have arrested more than 50 people on a variety of charges ranging from armed robbery to drug dealing in the complex off Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.
Now, when the 25-year-old officer walks through the maze of buildings that had a reputation of a free-wheeling drug market, he is met by thankful residents who aren't scared to leave their homes after dark anymore.
"I was skeptical," Officer Anderson said. "But we just came in during the first week and drowned the place."
Undercover officers sold people drugs, then arrested them as they drove out of the complex, and they raided apartments where dealers lived.
The drug operation is an extension of a successful endeavor in nearby Freetown Village, a public housing community where police officers virtually moved in, ousted the dealers and starting helping the children with homework and taking them to baseball games.
Eventually, officers in Valley Brook will do the same thing, said Capt. Gary L. Barr, commander of the Northern District station. But the first step is high-profile arrests that let the dealers and users know that their days in the complex are over.
"I haven't been in here very much because of the situation," said George Kelly, who lives in Old Mill and frequently visits friends at Valley Brook. "Now, I don't have a bunch of people flagging me down."
"You've cleaned it up," a resident who didn't want to be identified told Officer Anderson and his supervisor, Sgt. Donald J. Hauf Jr., in a walk through the community yesterday. "You guys are doing a good job. It was a real bad open air drug market."
Sergeant Hauf concurred. "It was like a drive-up McDonald's window," he said, explaining that police stopped everyone to check for identification and pulled over cars for even the smallest infraction.
He said police identified at least 259 suspected drug dealers, many of whom were observed by detectives who watched them with infrared cameras as they exchanged money for crack cocaine or PCP.
"We took on the drug dealers and let them know their actions weren't going to be tolerated," Captain Barr said. "Now we are going to stress the community relations side."
During the operation, police said they seized $2,500 worth of illegal drugs, five cars and $3,365 in cash.
The officers also arrested two men suspected of robbing at gunpoint a woman who was on crutches. And three days ago, residents told police where to find a suspected drug dealer they were chasing through the complex.
Carey Nelms, the regional manager of Valley Brook, said her company just took over last week. "We're already seeing an improvement," she said of the police presence. She said they screen applicants and are serious about evicting tenants who are involved with drugs.
While residents interviewed during the police tour of the community yesterday said they were pleased, some worried that the drug problem would return if the police disappeared.
The officers said they won't be leaving any time soon.