It's creeping back.
Four months after 120 police stormed drug-ridden blocks of Barclay Street and Greenmount Avenue to bring order and peace -- and doing a good job of it, according to residents -- the bad guys are starting to get brazen again.
"Ain't no thinking about it," said Ronald Scott, 39, of the 400 block of E. 21st St. "The drugs are creeping back in."
Just Monday, said an officer on the beat, two men were locked up for selling drugs on the street at 10:30 a.m. in the 2100 block of Barclay St.
"It's more discreet, but it's still here," said the officer, predicting that another major raid eventually will be necessary to maintain the relative order achieved the last time.
The March 19 raid for guns, drugs and cocaine dealers in the Barclay and East Baltimore Midway neighborhoods was concentrated on 22 blocks from North Avenue to East 25th Street and from Homewood Avenue to Guilford Avenue.
Police went after drug lookouts, addicts and foot soldiers, but especially targeted well-armed dealers working out of stash houses along Greenmount Avenue and the 700 block of E. 21st St.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called it "one of the most heavily drug-infested neighborhoods in Baltimore." Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier vowed: "We will stay here on the corner as long as we need to do it."
And for many weeks afterward, said longtime residents, it was as if the calendar had been turned back to long-gone days when folks sat outside without fear of gunfire and could walk to the store unmolested by arrogant drug dealers and their voracious customers.
Around supper time yesterday, the streets still looked clean above North Avenue along Greenmount and Barclay -- gutters were swept, flowers bloomed in sidewalk planters and people lined up at snowball stands for a break from the heat.
"It was real clean for maybe the first two or three weeks. A lot of it moved off the corners and back indoors," said William D. Wall. "It's not gone, but it's not like it was."
Said Dan Hatcher, 71: "Looks like the big stuff is gone, I just want [the police] to keep on keeping on."
What remains particularly troubling, said neighbors, is the 2100 block of Barclay Ave.
Said Ruth N. Scott, 55, who lives a block away: "I don't know how in the world the police don't know what's going on there. They're gathering up on the corners again."
"Hot spots," agreed Mary Sue Johnson, 68, of E. 21st St. "If you saw it yourself, you'd say us old people are right."
But at least Romel Bacon doesn't have to step over drug dealers anymore just to get in and out of his father's barbershop on Greenmount Avenue just above North Avenue.
"I've only seen three of the arrested dealers from before come back," said Mr. Bacon of the Petite Barbershop.
"But now you can't go two blocks in any direction without seeing a police officer, too."