With tours of rehabilitated homes in the new Sandtown-Winchester Square wrapped up yesterday, city leaders acknowledged a neighborhood drug problem and promised an aggressive effort to rid the area of dealers and addicts.
"We're going to have to work as partners with the community to ensure that while we're building the new units and bringing in new homeowners that we make sure the neighborhood is healthy as well," city Housing Commissioner Patricia J. Payne said. "We'll be working with all of the stakeholders in the community to do that."
Sandra Gregg, a spokeswoman for the Enterprise Foundation -- which restored the $40,000 to $60,000 homes in partnership with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) -- said a good relationship has been established with police in Sandtown-Winchester.
A year ago, she said, blatant drug sales were not uncommon in the 1100 block of N. Calhoun St., where 36 townhomes have been revamped in a $30 million redevelopment of the West Baltimore neighborhood. Now, drug activity has moved a few blocks.
Lt. Carmine Baratta of the Western Police District said Sandtown-Winchester is less violent than some district neighborhoods. "There are a lot of nuisance-type calls, people loitering, juvenile disturbances."
But, noting the financial investment in Sandtown-Winchester in the past decade -- more than $70 million in the past 10 years, says housing spokesman Zack Germroth -- Baratta said police will continue active law enforcement there.
Payne and others predicted that as homeowners move into Sandtown-Winchester Square -- construction is scheduled to begin on Phase II early next year -- illegal drug sales will diminish.
"As people begin to have a sense of ownership in the community, not just in their homes, then that's the best way to turn a neighborhood around. The dealers will move somewhere else when they think someone's watching out the window."