In the early morning breeze, Daniel Parker sweeps the alley between Ramsay and Wilhelm streets in Southwest Baltimore. He glances briefly at a pile of junk someone has dumped into the alley about six doors down, hunches his shoulders as though he doesn't understand how some people can be so trifling, and continues sweeping.
Mr. Parker, 34, of 1915 Wilhelm St. said yesterday that he and several other neighbors often sweep the alley, trying to assist the city's latest effort to get a handle on the litter problem in residential neighborhoods.
About two weeks ago, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke gave Baltimore's 35 sanitation supervisors a 60-day deadline to crack down on city residents who throw garbage bags and other refuse into alleys without regard to trash pickup day.
On Aug. 29, a Sun reporter visiting the neighborhood bounded by Payton and Pulaski streets and Ramsay and Wilhelm saw alleys and gutters sprinkled liberally with litter and garbage bags ripped open by animals that had smelled the food inside.
A return visit to the neighborhood yesterday -- the day after Labor Day -- showed no appreciable difference in conditions. The piles of garbage bags awaiting city pickup were larger than normal, waist-high on some street corners.
But several back yards that a sanitation supervisor said last week would be cited if the grass wasn't cut and weeds removed had been cleared.
The alley behind Mr. Parker's home looked better than it did a week ago, but someone had dumped two rusted kitchen chairs there, an old chest of drawers and other discarded material that no longer resembled anything recognizable.
Mr. Parker's neighbor, Rudolph Shaw, said the city's bulk trash pickup truck was in the alley Saturday. "They waited until after it had left, then bring this stuff out," he said of whoever dumped the items.
Mr. Shaw, 63, of 1926 Ramsay St., blamed the trash problem on some of his neighbors. "Some people are just like hogs," he said. "You shouldn't say that about human beings, but it needs to be said."
But Mr. Parker, who agreed that the residents need to be more responsible, said the city also needs more manpower to keep the streets clean.
"I used to work for the city, in the sanitation department," said Mr. Parker, who is unemployed. "We used to clean the streets and gutters every day. Now they have kids doing it in the summer. But when that program is over the place really gets bad again."
Mr. Shaw, a former meat cutter, said he lived in the same house 29 years before using some of his retirement money to buy the house where he and his wife now live.
"The city has gotten better about cleaning up alleys the last couple of weeks," he said, "but a lot of the problem comes from the people themselves. They put out their garbage a half-hour after the truck has passed, then between the dogs and the cats and the rats the stuff winds up all over the place."
Mr. Shaw said the city should "throw some stiff fines" at sanitation law violators to get improvements.
Kenneth Strong, acting chief of the city's Bureau of Solid Waste, said yesterday that sanitation supervisors will adhere to Mayor Schmoke's directive to get tougher with violators. But he said greater emphasis also must be placed on education.
"We want to put out the idea that there is a partnership with the city to make neighborhoods clean," Mr. Strong said. "Supervisors are expected to regularly pick up the phone and attend neighborhood meetings to discuss trash problems before they become severe."
Mr. Strong said the vast majority of Baltimore residents are complying with sanitation laws, but many people don't realize they are violating them when they ignore the city pickup schedule in putting their garbage outside.
Mr. Parker said he and neighbors such as Mr. Shaw will continue doing their part, sweeping the alley after trash collections. "We're just trying to help," he said.