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Neighbors vow to drive drug dealers out


Lower Park Heights residents have done this before -- meet at a church sanctuary and pledge to push drug dealers off the corners and drive crime statistics downward.

Yet, drug dealers continue to dominate many intersections, and children and elderly people often are afraid to leave their homes because of the danger.

Despite these persistent frustrations, residents of the Northwest Baltimore community last night launched a new effort to fight crime at a forum at New Fellowship Christian Community Church, 5202 Park Heights Ave., and promised better results.

"So many times we come to these meetings and all we do is talk," Jean Yarborough, president of the Park Heights Networking Community Council, told about 150 people who attended the meeting. "But I promise you, tonight is the beginning of a new day."

Mrs. Yarborough announced a task force of community activists, area business leaders and city officials, who the council has directed to form new strategies to clean up the once-glorious community. The task force is to issue a report in three months.

Organizers of the crime forum said they remain optimistic, despite the many abandoned houses that checker the community, the lack of recreational activities for youths, and the crime.

Kenneth Grant, 38, a homeowner and taxpayer, said he's fed up with drug dealing on his block and the inability of police to do anything about it.

"I have given names, addresses, descriptions of places where the drugs are being stashed, and we're not getting any results," said Mr. Grant of the 2900 block of Garrison Ave. "It's an open drug market all night long, all day long. We need some relief."

One resident complained that crimes had been committed in two vacant houses on her block, and she and other residents blamed absentee landlords for contributing to the crime problem.

Albert Henry, of the Pimlico Merchants Association, said crime hurts area businesses. "I find it challenging to market a business community that is considered to be a dangerous place to shop," Mr. Henry said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told the group that the community would benefit from new technology he wants to bring to Baltimore. He particularly noted an imaging device that can look through clothing and see whether someone is carrying a gun.

One success story was told last night. Schwanda Smalls of the Hilltop 41 community said she stood up to drug dealers, who habitually loitered in front of her house.

She said she got help from the Northwest Baltimore Corp., a community group that got federal authorities to show a presence in the neighborhood.

Now, Mrs. Smalls reported, the area is safer for her two young children.

Ms. Yarborough told residents to be more visible in their fight against crime.

"Don't come in here . . . thinking we're going to solve all your problems. You're here . . . so I know you care," she said, urging them to join neighborhood block watch groups. "If you sit home and you don't want to get involved, then you deserve what you get."

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