Gov. William Donald Schaefer wants to get state police and other state agencies on the front lines of the drug war, starting with Newtowne 20 and Woodside Gardens, drug-plagued neighborhoods in Annapolis.
Dubbed "Operation People," the effort has placed more than 30 state troopers in those neighborhoods after a year of predominantly drug-related violent crime. The governor has suggested the same approach might be attempted in Baltimore.
Troopers stood on the sidewalks of those neighborhoods Friday looking like so many beat cops as the governor, the mayor and a clutch of reporters and photographers marked the first week of the experiment.
Twenty-four-hour patrols began a week ago after undercover investigations in September led to the arrest of about 20 people on drug charges. The troopers are working alongside Annapolis and Anne Arundel County police.
"This program will provide a community with a police presence and access to government resources that will swiftly and significantly reduce crime," State Police Superintendent Col. Larry W. Tolliver promised in a written statement.
The "government resources" were on hand at Newtowne 20 in the form of a jobs and health fair being held Thursday and Friday. Residents were given information on health care and employment prospects by people representing the Maryland departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Economic and Employment Development.
The effort grew out of a statewide crime summit held in the spring. Newtowne 20 and Woodside Gardens were chosen after officials consulted with Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, Police Chief Harold Robbins and Alderman Carl Snowden.
Mr. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat, said the two housing complexes had seen a sharp increase in violence crime since the beginning of the year as they have become magnets for drug peddlers from Washington, Philadelphia and New York.
Newtowne 20 comprises 77 apartments managed by the Annapolis Housing Authority; Woodside Gardens includes 159 rent-subsidized apartments managed by a private company.
The manager and assistant manager of Woodside said the effort seems to have made the streets safer, but they resented the state lumping their apartments in with a public housing project, where they said most of the crime has occurred.
They also were not pleased the state police had chosen to park a trailer in Woodside Gardens, which is private property, rather than in Newtowne 20.
"We just resent all of the hoopla," said assistant manager Victoria Bender, watching television camera crews follow the governor and the mayor along the streets.
She said proper credit has not been given for community improvements that began months before the troopers arrived.
The beefed-up patrols will not be permanent, but the state has said that after the troopers leave, residents will have better access to the help they need to keep the communities safe.
"The state is doing a beautiful job, it's terrible they have to leave," said Marion Johnson, who has lived in Woodside Gardens for 22 years. "You don't have to worry about coming out at night. The children can come out and play without dodging bullets."