One of the reasons Tony M. Wagstaff moved to the Coldstream Homestead Montebello community was its tranquillity. But a rash of shootings in the East Baltimore neighborhood tells him that things are far different than they were 15 years ago.
"It's just starting to get bad," said Mr. Wagstaff, 40, as he paused from washing his blue Chevy in front of his home in the 1700 block of Carswell St. "There have been bad things, but not that many shootings as are going on now."
Last weekend, police recorded five shootings -- two of them homicides -- in a neighborhood that has seen its share of crime but is not accustomed to multiple shootings.
"Violence in the area is a problem, but the intensity of the [recent] violence is unusual," said Maj. Bert Shirey, commander of the police's Northeastern District. "I'm very concerned about this outbreak. This is nonsense. It has to stop."
Major Shirey said he assigned additional officers to the community this week in response to last weekend's shootings.
About 7:30 p.m. Friday, police found grocer Ok Moon Chung, 47, dead of gunshot wounds on the floor of his Clifton Food Market in the 2700 block of Harford Road.
About 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Mohammad Ijaz, 32, of the 9800 block of Tailspin Lane was shot while delivering a pizza at to an address down the street from Mr. Wagstaff's home.
The first homicide in the neighborhood this year occurred Jan. 21, when Yvette Wise, 29, of the 3400 block of Ravenwood Road was shot in the chest during an attempted holdup just after 11 p.m. when she was walking in the 2600 block of Harford Road.
Seven shootings and three homicides in the area in the first two months of the year make police and community residents worry about an increase in crime from last year, when there were 21 shootings and two homicides.
The community is roughly bounded by Harford Road, Loch Raven Boulevard, 33rd Street and 25th Street and has aging brick rowhouses -- many with neat lawns, others battered, some boarded up.
One resident was sweeping his front steps yesterday afternoon. On one street, elderly men walked slowly along while groups of young men stood, talked and watched cars go by.
As his curious 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son looked through the bars of the family's storm door, Mr. Wagstaff glanced back at them. He said he never would let his children play outside, not even on this seemingly calm narrow street.
He said most of his neighbors have lived in their homes for years and he blames the increase of crime on the usual culprits -- drugs and rising violence among teens and young adults.
"Some of them come from school and they will write on the walls," he said, gesturing toward the graffiti-stained wooden gate that leads to his back yard.
Ann E. Walker, executive director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corp., said her neighborhood has many "good, creative, smart and bright kids," but the area has seen an increase in gang activity.
"I've seen it change dramatically from what it once was, a calmer, I would say middle-class neighborhood," said Ms. Walker, who has lived there 30 years. "This year has been particularly violent in nature. Basically, people have forgotten how to care for one another. They care more for objects."
"It's still a good community; there are some good points about it," Ms. Walker said.
"There are some good people and there are the bad elements.
"We have to look out for each other. We have to watch one another's backs."