Nancy Lee Clark has lived in the community just south of Clifton Park for more than 40 years and has many good recollections of her neighborhood. The last three years have been the most memorable -- but for the wrong reasons.
"The thing on my mind now is how me and my neighbors are scared to go out of the house because of the drugs and shootings," said Ms. Clark, 78, who lives in the 2000 block of Cliftwood Ave. in East Baltimore. "It wasn't like that before."
Starting tomorrow , Ms. Clark and about 30 of her neighbors in the South Clifton Park community will begin regular patrols of their community's streets in an effort to fend off criminal activity.
The patrols are part of Citizen Action Now -- Drugs Out (CanDo), anti-crime effort in which residents have been trained by security officers at Johns Hopkins Hospital to spot problems.
Much of the area to be patrolled consists of clean, neat brick rowhouses whose owners have lived in the neighborhood for years. However, other parts of the area are open-air markets for 24-hour drug trafficking, residents said.
One resident said she heard five gunshots on Mother's Day.
"If it means getting things back to when it was safe around here, I'll do it," Ms. Clark said of the patrols. "It's gotten so bad I'm scared to go to my car to drive to church -- I don't know what's going to happen when I try to get out of my car."
The first patrols will be in a small pocket of the area bounded by North Avenue, Washington Street, Collington Avenue and Sinclair Lane, according to Officer Deborah Ramsey, a Baltimore police officer in the community policing division at Eastern District.
Officer Ramsey, who coordinated the CanDo program after hearing numerous complaints about crime in the area, said each patrol will always have at least five residents and a city police officer.
All of those on patrol will be dressed in matching black T-shirts and hats, and have been given 16 hours of classroom instruction on how to spot crimes against property, crimes against people and street drug trafficking.
They also have received instruction on some protection techniques.
Those on patrol will not be the aggressors, organizers stressed, "But we plan on meaning business out there, too," said Dollie Blue, another longtime community resident.
There are no set times for patrols, but residents said most drug dealing is done in the evenings.
In May, when CanDo was being formed, residents took a bus ride to a Washington neighborhood where a similar program was in place. The Baltimore residents were impressed.
"We liked what we saw," said Sandra Saunders, 48, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood who plans to participate in the patrols.
"Now, we're going to let them see that we're taking our neighborhood back. Why should I be afraid to go outside and be locked up inside?" Ms. Saunders said. "I don't intend to be locked up for the rest of my life."
The training by Hopkins security personnel was provided free, and the T-shirts and hats were donated by local companies.
In addition to reducing crime, Officer Ramsey said, she hopes the patrols help reduce the number of "911" calls police receive from the neighborhood.
"For at least two to three hours a day we can eliminate some emergency calls," Officer Ramsey said. "This is going to catch on for other communities in the area."
Ms. Clark said she was apprehensive about going on the patrols when Officer Ramsey first approached her.
"I said I was scared to do it, but she said you're scared right now anyhow," Ms. Clark said. "So I said I might as well do it."