Business as usual resumes at site of prostitution raid Residents try to cope with absence of police at Baltimore corners


Life returned to usual at Calvert and Preston streets in Baltimore during the weekend. Lookouts for a suspected drug house guarded their turf. Prostitutes in high heels offered their services on the corner.

The previous weekend, a team of police officers, including a female officer pretending to be a prostitute, was deployed in the area and arrested men who allegedly tried to buy sex. But a week later, the police were gone and the regulars returned.

A man in female clothing walked a Yorkshire terrier and demanded $40 "just to talk."

Patrick Bowers, a law student, hurried inside his apartment on Preston Street. "There have always been prostitutes here, but this corner is really extreme," he said.

A battle is going on in some areas of Baltimore involving police, residents and prostitutes -- all fighting for their slice of the city. Countless men and women practicing the world's oldest profession are arrested year after year, yet complaints keep pouring in.

But police can't hit every corner every night. After the previous week's operation in which 30 men were arrested in "Operation Buyer Beware," the officers were gone at Calvert and Preston and no arrests were made over the weekend.

Police targeted two corners the previous weekend -- the 1800 block of Eutaw Place and the 1200 block of N. Calvert St. Over the weekend, Eutaw was quiet; Calvert was not.

The 1200 block of Calvert, at its intersection with Preston, is just north of downtown. It is near the University of Baltimore, Penn Station and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The block is an odd mix. Elderly residents live across the street from a string of rowhouses: a suspected drug den at the corner; a hangout for hookers next door; a lawyer's office next door to that; and a halfway house for recovering drug addicts two doors down.

Friday night, it was quiet one minute, noisy the next. People yelling from upstairs windows, women shouting at cars, drivers double-parked. Lookouts oversee everything, trying to ensure the commerce of drugs and prostitution goes uninterrupted.

Residents try to cope.

In another area of the city, Micheleen McNeill lives in Madison West in a restored century-old house with 20 rooms on Eutaw Place. The area, one street west of the Bolton Hill neighborhood, has expensive homes with parquet floors and vaulted ceilings.

Some of McNeill's windows overlook a wide, grassy median strip. The city took the benches from the median to eliminate a gathering place for prostitutes.

Police were in McNeill's neighborhood the previous weekend, too, arresting men they said were looking for sex. The ABC News television program "20/20" also came to document the suspected trade. Police arrested about a dozen men on consecutive nights, and the effects of the sting seemed to last.

But McNeill knows the peace will be short-lived. She's known as the "lady who chases the whores," and she's had her share of trouble.

She got into an altercation with a prostitute during the summer, and in early August her car was broken into.

"They messed up the steering column and had sex in it and threw condoms around," McNeill said.

A month later, she was mugged and pushed down steps outside her home. Someone stole her purse that contained her checkbook, which was returned with a smiley face and threatening profanity scrawled inside.

Across the street, someone threw a brick and shattered an antique stained-glass window, causing $10,000 in damage.

McNeill's neighbors started "Dear John" patrols, using license plates to track men they observed picking up women and then sending letters to their homes.

Residents say the prostitutes act as lookouts for people breaking into homes. "They know when we go to work," McNeill said. "They know when we come home. They are out there 24 hours a day."

Because of the prostitutes and the crime they bring with them, some residents drive 10-year-old cars to discourage vandals.

For the most part, residents are too scared to give their names. One Linden Avenue resident said that last week she approached a car with a license plate that indicated the driver was a firefighter. "I said, 'Excuse me, are you here to chase the johns away or are you one?' He said, 'That depends on what you're offering.' "

Don't tell these residents that prostitution is a victimless crime.

Girls ages 7, 8 and 9 watch what goes on outside their homes and have started a game. "They think it's a joke," the Linden Avenue resident said. "They are playing whore."

The girls approach strangers' cars, and they "spin their skirts and they flip their tops," the 42-year-old woman said. "This is what they see. This is what they mimic. This has got to stop."

Pub Date: 10/07/96

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