Edith McIntyre peeked out her front door yesterday in the 1800 block of E. Eager St. and marveled at how quiet the once drug-infested block has become, a week after 200 city police officers raided the Middle East community and arrested 36 people.
Neighborhood children, she said, can now play outdoors without fear of being shot in the violence overflowing the many open-air drug markets. And though drug dealing has not been eliminated, it has slowed enough for this besieged neighborhood near Johns Hopkins Hospital to regroup.
"They are still buying the stuff," said Mrs. McIntyre, who has lived in Middle East for 17 years. "But they have to come back around four or five times to find it."
The neighborhood yesterday was littered with cigarette butts, empty soda cans and signs of urban strife. People of all ages sat on rowhouse stoops at noon. Caps to plastic crack vials were wedged in the sidewalk, and a syringe lay in a gutter near the hospital.
Police are searching for about 50 suspects who were not found during the raid July 14. But they say the community has enjoyed a sense of calm after "Operation Mid-East" -- the second phase of a citywide crackdown on dangerous neighborhoods.
The area was the second deadliest in Baltimore, police said -- 39 shootings and six homicides were reported there since January.
Twenty houses were raided in Middle East after undercover agents who had infiltrated the area obtained grand jury indictments and arrest warrants by videotaping drug buys. One day after the raid, city work crews descended on the neighborhood and hauled away 35 tons of garbage.
The continuing police search for suspects has led to frequent "field interviews" of residents hanging out on the stoops of city-owned property, said Sgt. Albert Diggs of the Eastern District. That practice has angered many residents.
"The police keep you moving," said Vernon Ruff, 46. "If there are five or more people sitting on a step, they make you go inside. We tell them to go up to Highlandtown and do that."
Rose Bowlding, a 33-year-old admitted heroin user, said police are harassing residents. Her rowhouse was raided last week, but no drugs were found.
"[The police] are here 24 hours a day," she said. "They pick with everybody. Pick, pick, pick. They see you walking down the street with a bag, they slam you against the wall."
But Amos McCallum, 40, of the 900 block of N. Washington St. is glad that the increased police presence has reduced the number of drug dealers. "The dealers would be all up in your face, you couldn't walk" without being approached, he said.
Capt. Gary D'Addario of the Eastern District said that on Monday, there were some problems with people gathering at favorite corners such as Ashland and Eager.
By Tuesday, police had stepped up the number of officers cruising in cars and patrolling on foot in Middle East, moving crowds out, he said.
The only serious crime in the area since the raid was the fatal shooting Monday of Richard Thomas, 28, of the 700 block of N. Collington Ave. He was shot two blocks from the raid's boundary, in the 700 block of N. Rose St.
Donald Ferebee Jr., 19, of the 700 block of N. Rose St. has been charged with first-degree murder. He was arrested near the scene soon after police found the victim, who was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital.