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Crime

DEA charges Baltimore Safe Streets worker, who claimed drugs were part of intervention work

When police pulled over Ronald Alexander earlier this month, he told officers that the 100 grams of heroin they found had been taken from a community member as part of his work with the Safe Streets anti-violence group.

Except the traffic stop was no chance encounter — agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration say they had been listening over a wiretap on Alexander’s phone for months and had been watching him right before initiating the stop.

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Alexander, 50, and two others were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs last week through a criminal complaint following the three-month investigation, which also recorded Alexander saying he would help a man who said he urgently needed a firearm.

“Hey, yo, I need a joint,” the man told Alexander in late June, referring to a firearm. “ASAP. I’ll pay for it. I need it right now.”

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The charges were unsealed Monday. City officials said Alexander worked at the program’s Franklin Square site, administered by Bon Secours Mercy Health, since April and was fired after his arrest.

“As a program that employs and relies heavily upon individuals with criminal histories, recidivism is an adverse risk of this strategy,” said Tamika Gauvin, director of the mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, in a statement. “Upon learning that a member of the Safe Streets Baltimore team had been engaged in illegal activity, the office took swift action to separate him from the program.”

Gauvin said the city “remains committed to cooperating with the Baltimore City Police Department in these instances and protecting the large majority of the Safe Streets Baltimore team members that risk their lives every day to disrupt violence in our City.”

Safe Streets is a program run through the city’s Office on Criminal Justice — formerly through the Health Department — that employs ex-offenders to use their street credibility and experiences to mediate conflicts and reduce violence.

They explicitly do not work with police or share information, as part of offering a safe space for people who may be engaged in crime. The goal is to reduce violence. The outreach workers are instructed to steer clear of crime themselves.

Over the years, the program has been associated with crime declines where it’s been deployed, as well as run afoul of police.

A former worker named Ricky Evans pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in 2018 and admitted to operating a murder-for-hire scheme and holding meetings of the Black Guerrilla Family at the East Baltimore Safe Streets offices.

“For years, law enforcement believed that BGF used the Safe Streets’ offices as a ‘safe house’ to conduct meetings regarding gang activity,” federal prosecutors wrote in late 2018 in a motion related to Evans’ case. “At least one witness will testify that he/she attended gang meetings at Safe Streets, and that Safe Streets is primarily staffed by BGF members.”

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Encouraged by the program’s broader conflict mediation results, officials have added additional sites in recent years. In 2019, officials said Safe Streets workers mediated 1,800 conflicts.

“We can’t indict a whole program based off of the actions of one person. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have a Baltimore City Hall, we definitely wouldn’t have a police department in Baltimore City,” City Council President Brandon Scott recently told The Intercept.

Alexander is accused of running a drug “shop” in the area of Spaulding and Palmer avenues near Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore.

It’s not clear from the complaint how authorities began investigating Alexander. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in 2002 and was released in 2017, court records show.

When the man called Alexander saying he urgently needed a firearm, Alexander responded that he didn’t have one to provide but gave the man a phone number of someone he said could loan him one, according to the recorded call.

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In another recorded conversation, Alexander discussed guns with the same man.

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“I got one for the house, and one I keep outside,” Alexander said. “I ain’t in no [expletive] military.”

“I’m trying to get all [the guns] I can get,” the man said. “What if we have to go to war?”

“Most [expletives] who think that always get caught with them,” Alexander replied.

Agents included in court records a photo of Alexander exiting his house on another date, wearing a “Safe Streets” shirt and holding a bag of white powder that they say was suspected drugs.

Also charged with Alexander was Thomas Corey Crosby, 51, who the DEA alleged is a drug supplier in the Baltimore metropolitan area from whom Alexander acquired drugs. Crosby previously did seven years in the federal prison system on drug charges. Mark Brinkley, 51, also was charged.

Alexander made his first appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday, and did not enter a plea. None of the men had attorneys listed in court records.


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