August 2004 Journal Entries

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Thursday, August 26, 8pm: The Haddad trucks. What a sign. Blocking the alley. All around the corner of Wilson and McCulloh. How fun! Apparently Mr. Douglas of the funeral home by the same name has no problem whoring his home out for the johns of The Wire who enjoy making money dramatizing the very real problems of our block. Hey, get your piece of the pie! There's money to be made ...on the drug trade, not only in dealing, Section 8 property management, the war on drugs itself and theater. Why not? I did. Though I never will again.  Check out February 2003 , the 13th, for comment about  my experience with these exploitists.

At least the city police I see,  I hope off duty, will make them safe ... and us incidentally. God forbid a second rate TV actor playing a drug dealer should actually be exposed to the life he pretends. People who live here are not nearly so valuable as pretty faces pretending to be them for a camera.

Thursday, August 26, 4:30pm: "Red tops, red tops, reeeeddddds!" outside my window just now. New color. I was used to greens. For the past few hours kids and moms and young men all dressed identically have been "enjoying" the fine summer afternoon. Cell phones have been ringing every few minutes. Used to be only drug dealers and doctors had pagers and then cell phones. Now it's everyone. Some of our dealers have two. Probably new ones often, under new girlfriend's names.

This is certainly not the first time I've seen dealing going on amidst families. It's accepted as the norm here on this block of Madison Avenue, as it is on the other which fronts the main courtyard. The dealers love to have the cover of babies and kids. That's probably why they get shot so often.

No Pedestal Gardens security to be seen, of course. I'm sure they punch their bar code readers to prove they've been here, but that doesn't mean they opened their eyes while they were visiting. It just takes a glance outside for me to know if the effective ones are on or if we have the pizza parlor class guards on. Last night one of the good, commissioned guys was on. Quiet, serene outside, most all night. Huge difference between the SPS guys now. And sill no one from Pedestal Gardens management seems to notice or care if their residents and the neighborhood it affects are safe or if they're getting their money's worth.

It's gotten quieter as I write this. Cell phone guys have left. Give it a moment. I'll hear the unmistakable brake squeal of a city police car driving through. Hmm. No police car. Ah, but wait. There's one parked in the substation. Must have new brakes.

City police and HUD really need to give more attention to take back these blocks around Pedestal Gardens now. That is if anyone but the owners of the property want it to stay. I know other property owners all around here want it gone and with good reason.  There's been good progress in the past two years, though. We've come too far to see it ruined by negligent and/or complicit Pedestal Gardens guards who obviously don't care about the neighborhood, just like their boss.

Got a flyer recently about a meeting about the annual "Take back our streets" event hosted by AME Payne Memorial. Nice little marching band parade, but last year the rally drew about three dozen people. Was hardly worth putting out the seats. Nice that Payne puts on a rhetoric event once a year. At least it's something. Other church's in blocks not even so near do real things all year long. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Saturday, August 21, 6pm: Sometimes I'm wrong. Big surprise, right? But in this case not entirely. Called 911 a bit ago. Dealers on both side of the street, ours and NIMROD. Turns out four of those I thought were dealers were attending an NA meeting at NIMROD. Don't I feel stupid? The guy with the Cadillac and his crew were simply setting up shop across from them. I can imagine them saying "come here, I know you want it ..."

Anyway, Cadillac Crew left before the squad car arrived. Scanners are cheap and available at every Radio Shack. I went out to explain to the officers what I'd seen, to reassure them I wasn't imagining things. While talking to the them, looked to my left to the school playground. Sure enough, there they were. All pretending to play basketball. I pointed out a few. And I mean pointed. Told the officers I was more than tired of this and would not see it go back to where it was. The dealers. knowing they'd been pointed out, sauntered over with the attitude thing they work so hard at going strong, past the squad car and me. Nasty glances in my direction. They went over to 1715 where the security guard there just watched as they went in.

"What should Mr. Brown do?," Vaughn said, referring to PG security officer Brown whom I recognized from across the block. "How about asking them which apartment they were visiting, writing it down in front of them, following them to the apartment and waiting for them to come out?" "You expect him to do that?" Vaughn said. "Yes, especially when city officers are sitting right outside to back him up." Instead, they just waltz right in. No questions. No consequences. PG security is just window dressing and a waste of taxpayer money way too often.

The city officers in their squad car parked around the corner to be less obvious, hoping to be able to see something. Our dealer boys are way too smart for that. I'm surprised all officers don't realize it. I appreciate, hugely, the presence of the officers, but it's like hitting "pause" on the DVD player or VCR. It changes nothing, just stops the dealing for a time. Only plain clothes officers and surveillance can stop this type of dealing, this insurgence. Where is it?

I wonder which apartment the posse of dealers went into. Which vulnerable young woman with which of our neighborhood kids. It's too easy without supervision for thugs like those I just exchanged threatening glances with to intimidate teenage moms with three kids into giving them safe haven, opening the door when police might be watching or even chasing. That's happening again way too much at 1715-1717 Madison Avenue.

I love it when those complicit question my observations here. They always have nothing to say when I point out their motivations. Money and/or jobs. Same thing. Funny thing is, Vaughn and I have neither at stake.
And they forget the many times I praise worthy efforts. We just want our block to be safe and happy. Imagine that. No politics. No payola. Nothing but the simple hope for a safe place to live. An impossible dream in Baltimore? I hope not.

Friday, August 20, 6pm: A first. The dark Cadillac with the heavily tinted windows drove up fast, narrowly avoiding a pedestrian and squealed around the corner to park at the NIMROD building. Same guy who stalked me in his town car a few months ago. Then the guy comes around the corner with his $10 folding picnic chair to set it up in front of 1700-1702 Madison  Avenue.

The market is open!

Saw two of the newer SPS security people walking past. They said nothing. Did nothing. I probably won't see them for hours. Nor will the dealers. It's so sad that the security vendor to Pedestal Gardens has gotten exactly what he wanted. He can assign $6.50 pizza parlor class security guards now where once he was expected to provide $13 an hour commissioned officers. And his dispatch center to utilize the radios is pathetic at best. I'm so happy for the Pedestal Gardens management that it's not their money being spent on security. Just taxpayers getting screwed. Shameful in so many ways.

I often lament I respect the dealers more than other players of the game here. At least the dealers are honest, straightforward. Like cockroaches and rats. They don't pretend to care about anyone or anything else but themselves, they have no morals and don't pretend to.

Called 911. "What do they look like?" Hmm. "Drug dealers." Not sufficient. "White t-shirt, jean shorts,
, both  of them, 5'10" heavyset one, the other slim." If cops drive through. IF they do. The t-shirt will change to black. Beat cops and I know what the dealers look like. 911 operators expect a perfectly unique description. Ridiculous. We need help, damn it. Not questions and paperwork. I'm sorry to say it, but the Pedestal Gardens building needs more police attention. With the exception of two or three of the currently assigned staff, we have no one really doing the job too much of the time. Just window dressing. Just guys punching a time clock.

It seems all concerned really don't care much about what happens here. That we seem to have yet another crack house and dealers feel free to set up shop in broad daylight. No consequences. Just too profitable here. Thanks to Pedestal Gardens.

Friday, August 20, noon: Rated "PG" today. Relatively good news. Mild pornography references.

Last night was quiet on the Pedestal Gardens front. At least for us. Sometimes I think that and hear later from officers about fights and pepper sprays and found guns and foot chases. It also helped I had the AC on. The room unit's a bit noisy and with the windows closed I don't hear everything and everyone.

But what really made the difference was that when I looked out the window I saw Officer Jimmy several times. Doing his rounds. Making sure the residents and dealers alike knew he was there. And they know him. Being commissioned he's just as likely to snag a dealer across the street as on PG property and has no qualms about chasing the bad boys off the property and keeping up the chase until they're nabbed. The dealers know that and have seen it. Those residents prone to mischief know him, too.

And part of his strategy is to be seen a lot, all over the properties. He's been around long enough to know that if you don't make it clear the property is being supervised, it will go right back to drugville in an hour. And when it does, it makes it that much harder for the man on duty to do his job. Much easier to deter and prevent than to run them off or arrest them. Deterrence. What a concept. Cameras, for example. Great deterrent. And very useful in figuring out who is vandalizing the property or coming and going when security officers are not there.

It's unfortunate that the relatively small apartment house at 1715-1717, with just 24 units, pretty much requires 24/7 supervision to be under control. But it's a fact. Hardly seems viable this way. If it were not for a seemingly endless supply of taxpayer money, a private apartment house not taking HUD money wouldn't be able to afford it. These satellite properties of Pedestal Gardens were a big mistake. 1700 block of Madison and the 1200 block, too. They are crack magnets like any Section 8 housing in the city, but being apart from the main complex, they stretch manpower. Each needs supervision. The result is security staff playing an endless game of musical chairs with the dealers. And this game is not amusing to those of us who care about our neighborhood.

Hopefully, Officer Jimmy will be on through the weekend so we can sleep through the nights. Be helpful if Officer Tyler was on during the days, too. Maybe I can even go out to dinner or a movie without wondering what havoc is playing out at home.

I'm grateful to PG management for one thing at least: The dump lot next to 1715, the one where we'd like to see a park of some sort, has been kept quite clean for some time. The dumpster is emptied often enough now to keep up with it. And in so doing, it isn't a magnet for illegal dumpers looking to save time and dump fees by just tossing their trash on our block. Just the other day I was chatting with the neighbors at 1702, the house with the little church on the ground floor, a thriving auto repair business in the back and Pastor Jone's extended family as tenants above. We agreed how much better kept that lot is and how that makes such a difference to us all, not living in a dump. Now I wish I could get people to stop dumping in our alley. Let one TV get planted there and next morning you'll have a whole crop of broken chairs, tires, cabinets and garbage.

I don't think I wrote about this before. Stop me if I have. <g> Last week went to wipe down the little table officers use for lunch in the substation.


It fell right off the base. Broken. Apparently, someone sat on it or jumped on it, broke it and then just put it back on. First time I've ever had anyone damage anything in there. Wish they'd left a note. The table top is heavy and smarted when it hit my toe. I've fixed it. Epoxied it together. Should be indestructible now, but if the officer who did it is reading here, please be a bit more careful. I'd like to keep things like the table there for all of you.

Similar problem with the Internet access. For the first time I noticed an inappropriate use of the Internet access we provide there. I think checking your email, checking the status of a HUD auction home, reading the headlines, reading this site, checking the weather and the like are all great. I'm afraid the Playboy and "Hot Mama" websites should be reserved for your own home. With my luck, your sergeant or major will just happen to visit, catch you and end up with the substation closed down. Or at least lose the convenience of Internet access during your break. Same way we had to take out the TV when a couple officers felt it was OK to watch four hours of football during one eight hour shift. I remember an officer telling me "one bad apple spoiling it for the rest of us, we sure got yelled at."

I certainly don't want the one bad apple to spoil it for the many officers who use the substation appropriately. And I sure don't want everyone yelled at again, either. Not over a simple convenience we provide to make your day a bit easier and more efficient.

Been asked by some of the kids if we're having the BBQ again this year. It's a hard decision. These kids have so few things they can rely on. Not that they'd be surprised if we called it off this year. Too many of them find disappointment and unreliable adults the norm. It's a hard choice. We've got a time consuming and expensive roof rebuild ahead before winter sets in. Suffice to say when it rains outside, it rains inside now. We'll see what we can do.

Thursday, August 19, 1pm: Rated "R". Reader discretion is advised. Foul language. Rage venting. Threats.

Last night had a yelling match from my window with a drug thug kid leaving 1715-1717. Of course, no Pedestal Gardens security staff anywhere to be seen, as is so often the case now.  I was at the window, talking to a friend and he looked up at me and said something. Couldn't hear it so I opened the window.

"What did you say, couldn't hear you?" I feigned courtesy.

"Fuck'n white man!"

He thought I was reporting his dealing to the police because I had my phone to my ear. He doesn't realize I don't bother anymore unless it's really overt or there's fighting or something involved. It's the norm here and I think sometimes I'm becoming complacent to it, like my neighbors. But underneath there is no tolerance.

I unloaded my anger. "Fuck you, get the fuck off my block. We don't need you ...."

He just gave me nasty gestures as he walked away, knowing I would call the police and/ or break out the shot gun if he came at me. I don't mind being known as the "crazy white guy" here. Don't mind it a bit. I am. No question about that. I even encourage that rep, like when I started it nearly four years ago by attacking the badly overgrown tree in the back of the yard with a chain saw, cursing and hacking at it like a mad man. It had plagued officers here too long as a hiding place and perfect camouflage for fleeing dealers. Taking out that tree, and more, putting up the fence in the yard that was then a garbage dump and shooting gallery made the local cops happier.  It even nabbed a few dealers for the officers on foot chase, like a net. The bad boys forgot that wasn't a good escape route anymore and tried to scale the fence where more than once they were caught.

Lots of things have changed since then. Some have gone back to where they were. The property management of Pedestal Gardens, in its infinite wisdom, has reinstated the man who was in charge two years ago when things hit rock bottom here. The same man who was in charge for years before that, presiding over the status quo of drug dealing and mayhem that was and too often is Pedestal Gardens.

He's meeting today with the same greedy security guard company owner who has been "providing security" to Pedestal Gardens for years. That man has no concern for this neighborhood except as a cash cow. It shows at every turn. Especially lately with the lack of supervision and quality of security guards he's assigned to PG while no one from the property management firm seems to be looking.

Same property manager and same security guard company/owner as when things were out of control at Pedestal Gardens. What result would you expect? That's what we're getting. I'd love to call it benign neglect. It isn't. I believe the phrase is gross negligence.

If the same people presided over the Pedestal Gardens properties while they were bad and worse and things start to go backward when they come back, wouldn't you say "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem?" I sure do.

There's a new VP in charge of Pedestal Gardens, based in NYC or someplace. He seems like a well meaning guy, but he doesn't seem to understand the rerun I see taking place here. He wasn't around for it then, just like the on site manager with the "see no evil, hear no evil" attitude. But I hope this VP will see the handwriting on the wall. Or should I say spray painting. And this time around I will have the same patience for Pedestal Gardens ownership and management as I have for drug thugs occupying this block. If you can't be a reliable part of the solution, you've got to go too.  I gave Clarence Weston a lot of time and a lot of rope before I declared war. His building is now boarded up securely, forfeited. And yes, I take tremendous satisfaction in that victory. I grab on to that feeling often. It's part of what keeps me here.

Think I'm angry? You bet. We've come too far to let this happen ... and won't. Zero tolerance, my friends.

As I write this, two guys, cell phones glued to their ears have parked in front of this house. Both fancy, expensive luxury cars. They both meandered up and down the block and finally went into 1717 where all you have to do is grab the bottom of the fire door to open though it looks closed. I know they were looking for the security detail and the cops, likely talking to each other or their business partners to report the status.

They're done with business now, having a conference in front of the house next to their cars. Foxtrot is hovering overhead making them nervous. I don't know who if anyone called the cops.

The Pedestal Gardens community is such a cash cow for so many: property owners, property management firms, security companies ... and drug dealers. No wonder it goes on and on. A microcosm of the entire "war on drugs." All paid for with our tax dollars.

Wednesday, August 18, 1am: The dogs and I were disturbed just now by a woman yelling loudly in the street. Watched as a very large woman ran out of 1715's fire door wearing nothing but a t shirt, a short one at that, yelling at the top of her lungs. She's now in a heated argument with three other women on the corner, standing on the school grounds. Apparent this is one tenant of 1715, yelling at others from the main courtyard across the school grounds.

Called SPS Security, the company supposedly providing security to Pedestal Gardens. Told him all the details. Twice. And then was transferred to someone else who asked me "what's the problem, who are you!" It was like they were bothered to be called and had no idea where Pedestal Gardens was. I said you guys are just plain "worthless, never mind" and hung up. So much for the value of the radios taxpayers provided to expedite dispatch of those security guards. Maybe none are on. Obvious they're not doing their job if they are.

The quality of the services provided by SPS to Pedestal Gardens is sporadic at best now. Unreliable. Sometimes when the good ones are on, it's fine. Too often there's no security to be seen.

I called 911. It's apparent that's the only sure way now. Exactly what City Major Skinner said he did not want to see: a private property creating an excessive burden to the city officers. I see a HUD meeting if this continues.

Looking out just now, I see the two SPS staff on duty standing at the corner. Apparently the belligerent jerks who work at SPS's office in Essex did ask their men to do their jobs. I don't know where the officers were, but it's apparent they still go everywhere together, wasting the value of having two guards on at night. And now I hear yet more yelling. The guards just stand there. The yelling continues, but the 1715 tenants seem to be wandering back to their apartments.

Saw a city officer drive up, stopped to speak to the guards. Went out to ask what that was all about. Mr. Brown of SPS said something about the woman from 1717 chasing her son back and forth. I don't know how it involved the other PG tenants who he said were from the courtyard. "It was really louder than the incident was." I replied, "well, but it is 1 o'clock in the morning." What are we supposed to think? "Exactly," he replied.

I should not have had to call the city police, to waste their time. I resent having to because the building across the street and the walkway across the school to the main courtyard of Pedestal Gardens were not adequately supervised ... yet again.

Tuesday, August 17, 3pm: For most of yesterday, dealing was nonexistent. It was downright pastoral out there. Then something changed. Not sure, but I think there was a changing of the guard for the Pedestal Gardens security. Dealing started right up. The Cadillac belonging to the guys who stalked me past the school that time showed right up. I'm sure the cell phones were buzzing, "we can go back now, there's no one watching [1700]."

Last night I ran into a city officer we've known for some time in the substation. He'd stopped to get a cold bottle of water. His uniform was different. Bright yellow polo shirt. He was riding a Suzuki 350 dirt bike!

dirt bike

I'm impressed. I heard that about five of these bikes have been assigned to each of the districts. One to our sector, which as you know runs from Pennsylvania over through Bolton Hill. This officer does not take calls, he supports the other officers who do. Changing tactics and tools. Good police work. Pretty hard to evade this officer on foot, by car, by bicycle or even on one of those unlicensed motor scooters you see running wild all over our streets. Must really be a disappointment to our dealers.

Another eviction this morning at 1700 Madison Avenue, my neighbor three doors south, on the corner.

another eviction

It always seems so sad, so humiliating to see one's personal property piled onto the street. I don't know which tenants are out. Likely isn't the one whose boyfriend deals crack and heroin from the steps there while acting as lookout for the cops. We wouldn't be that lucky. And certainly the slumlord there doesn't care. He takes the rent and deposit from anyone, only coming here to evict or put in a new tenant. At least one of his tenants regularly throw their garbage directly into the street in front of that house. Leaving those of us who care like the residents of 1702, to pick it up or for it to blow into the street.

Was watching Animal Cops - Detroit last night. Good program, but heart wrenching. Detroit is so much like Baltimore. The big problem for them is Pit Bull fighting and abandonments. There are few things as amoral as abusing helpless animals and/or creating monsters out of creatures born innocent with childlike faith. Readers here know I tolerate animal cruelty less than I do drug dealing, as I told the crackhouse slumlord next door at 1704 that time. A substation supporter and neighbor posted this entry in the Bolton Hill bulletin board recently. If you might have or know of a home, I highly recommend this breed when they have not been destroyed by vicious persons without a shred of decency. Her email is listed.

Found abused/neglected pitt bull mix

From: J. Ernst
Remote Name:
Date: 22 Jul 2004
Time: 10:54:21

I am writing because my husband just found a very needy pit bull mix the other day when he was walking our two dogs. She was chained to a pole in Druid Hill Park, and was howling for someone to help her. My husband brought her home, fed her (she is emaciated) then brought her to Baltimore's SPCA, but they could not promise they wouldn't kill her, so he brought her home. She is adorable and we wish we could keep her, but we already have two dogs, a cat and a kitten that we found in a tree about a month ago. She doesn't seem to be house trained and I believe the change in her diet has caused her to have diarrhea. She is so skiddish and needs someone who will love her and help her build some confidence. If it weren't for the lack of house training, I think we'd be able to foster her for a little while until she was adopted, but there are times when we aren't home for @ 8 hrs., which makes it difficult to teach her. The shelter recommended we call her "Druidzilla", which has stuck. She shows no signs of aggressive tendencies (and I've seen her challenged by my dogs). Does anyone know of a rescue that is good about taking strays? We've called a few and many are booked. Or, is there a caring, patient person out there willing to nurse her back to health? Any advice would be greatly apprciated! Thanks, Julie Ernst


Saturday, August 14, 4pm: When I came home about an hour ago, I noticed a squad car parked in front of what is becoming the nuisance property of the block, the corner, 1700 Madison Avenue. Mr. Vogt with the PGP and other of his officers have noticed known drug dealers in and out at all hours. "Bryan, he has a rap sheet 15 pages long for drug dealing." he said regarding one guy I saw. The slumlord there has repeatedly shown he doesn't care. No interest in who he rents to. The tenants are so pathetic they even throw their garbage out onto the street in front.

Anyway, the squad car was there for some time. I noted when I saw it and then realized it had been in front of 1700 for half an hour. I was curious. I called 311 and said something like "I'm worried that the officer has not been to his car in a half hour." I was imagining a bad scenario where an officer had responded to a call and didn't come out. The 311 guy who answered was hostile, argumentative and nasty. He said something to the effect "he may be investigating something. I've been on the force 24 years, why would you question it?" etc. I repeated I was simply concerned he was OK. The guy at 311 continued to be argumentative, questioning my motives. I hung up on him. He deserves more. If he worked for me, and he doesn't remember he does, I would fire him this minute.

Don't call 311, option 2. The officers assigned to that detail seem invariably to be upset, angry people who can't handle it on the street anymore if they ever could. I'm sure there are good officers assigned to that detail, but I have seldom heard them. I called Major Skinner and left voice mail about this. I hope he looks into it. I'm pretty sure an officer was looking into something at 1700 at 3:30pm today. I'm sure he left about 4. When I hung up on the jerk at 311, I walked around the corner to get the car  number and found the cruiser had left. Apparently he was done with his business, whatever that was. I wonder if it was legit now. I usually assume as much. I always expect the best from the BPD. Rarely am I disappointed.

A few dealers are hanging around the stoop of 1700 as I write this. I've watched them do the deals. Don't know where the PGP guys are, but that's becoming the norm. If the good ones are on, things are fine. If the others are, it's drug city again. Dealers love having a place to hang out that isn't controlled by Pedestal Gardens so they can exploit the PG market without worrying about the management.

The owners of 1700 need a wake up call. And I will be giving it to them. They should only need to look at 1704 to see where their irresponsibility will take them.

Wednesday, August 11, 8:30pm: A vandal is making me consider closing the guest book. One of those people who doesn't use his real name. Likely too ashamed of what he writes and/or he's someone I know. Of course, I delete his entries immediately. Three key strokes, so it doesn't matter much. He's been at it before. Apparently has nothing better to do. He's just a nuisance and I don't need any more of those around here than I already do.

By far, nearly all of the entries in the guest book have been favorable. Lots of encouragement. Often in trying times they've been inspiration. The solution to the lunatic might be to accept guest book entries by email so the hate and vitriol can be prevented from reaching the website. That's not what this is about. This site has been about the ups and downs and hope and optimism and the times when those have been hard to maintain. Perhaps he'll just get tired of his online vandalism and move on. I wish it was as easy to clean up after our block's gang graffiti as it is cleaning up after him

By far, most all of the email I get because of this site is the same: encouraging and upbeat. Sometimes I get emails with suggestions and opportunities to help, like this one from the gentleman last Easter who was part of his church's effort to bring Easter Baskets to wounded troops and their families at Walter Reed.

Hi Bryan,
I hope all is well with your continuing efforts in Madison.  As you are aware the Baltimore school system is in trouble.  Here is a concrete way to help.  If this particular activity is of interest, but the dates are bad, there are many efforts like this city-wide.  Here is a list of what we are trying to do on Saturday the 14th at the Samuel Morse Elementary School (corner of S. Pulaski and Ashton).  I was hoping you could advertise this on your site (and perhaps even participate).

1.  Painting the exterior doors - there are 28, but we will focus on the front of the building if we don't have enough volunteers.

2.  Painting in bright colors the panels below the windows on the exterior- there are 56, but again we will focus on the front if we don't have enough help.

3.  Paint the inside entrance - doors and trim

4.  paint the Pre-K bathrooms - there are 2

5.  Clean and paint the 2nd floor girls and boys bathrooms - there are 4

6.  Paint the 1st floor hallways

7.  They would like all the other bathrooms done but we put that on the back burner if we do not have enough help.

8.  They also would like the gym painted - but we put that on the back burner if we do not have enough help.

9.  Cleanup of the litter and weeds near school property.

10.  Remove old carpet (the school will have it replaced, but it saves the labor costs for removal).

Anyone with special skills (plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc) could also be used for additional projects.  Thanks for considering this.


-----Original Message-----
From: Mielke, Jennifer []
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 4:36 PM
To: Van Beall
Subject: August 14th- Samuel Morse ES

Good Afternoon,

Samuel Morse Elementary School needs your support!!!!  Please read the attached information about Mayor Martin O’Malley’s Believe in Our Schools Campaign!! As part of the effort, we will be conducting a Blitz Day at

Samuel Morse Elementary School
424 S. Pulaski
Saturday, August

Please call me to find out how you can get involved. Please forward this information to businesses, faith institutions, community leaders, and civic groups. The children of Samuel Morse are counting on you!!!

There are lots of painting projects that require lots of volunteers!!!!! 

Breakfast and lunch will be provided. 

See you there

Jennifer J. Mielke
Neighborhood Liaison
Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods
City Hall, Room 628
100 N. Holliday
Baltimore, MD 21202
410.396.1632 (fax)
Please visit Baltimore City's website

I was not impressed by Ms. Mielke. I came across her two years ago while phoning the Mayor's office when we were building the substation. Wanted to invite him to join us for the inaugural BBQ. He couldn't make it. Sheila Dixon and Catherine Pugh were the ones to cut the ribbon. Ms. Mielke informed me, in the arrogant tone only impotent bureaucrats can assume, that the police did not want the substation and would not use it. Boy was she wrong. I sometimes see them a dozen times a day and that's when I look out the back window. And when I go to check on things, I always notice the number of bottles of cold water taken by grateful officers.

And of course, shortly after my conversation with her I got this email from her boss ...

"Thank you for all the hard work you put into making it possible - and congratulations on the great news coverage!!!

Martin O'Malley"

Anyway, looks like she is doing some good and this looks like a great chance to do something positive with a city school. God knows the schools need all the help they can get.

The Linden Tree Group, as they call themselves, the offshoot of the Techbalt concept, is anxiously waiting to hear about their proposal to develop eight derelict houses on Linden Street in Reservoir Hill. They expect word this week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I like the idea of cutting out the middle man, his huge profit, to make these rehab houses more affordable to those already banded together to buy them. Their friends already have a few houses occupied and others in the works there. Reservoir Hill is hardly a risky investment at this point, but the neighborhood, like so many in the city, needs more owner/occupants. Those invested in their community. While it's a new concept, a development cooperative, it's worth the risk to the city to try it. Mayor O'Malley's administration is supposed to be about trying new approaches where the old have failed. This is one.

Speaking of nice emails, just now while making this entry, this arrived ...

"Hi Bryan - I have some bottled water for the station.  When can I drop it off?  I can't do it between 8 AM and about 5 PM on Thurs or Fri, or between 8 AM and about 3 PM on Sat.
Sun. is OK any time.
Cheers, Susan Warner"

That's always a nice message. We just stocked the substation, but can always use more waters. The supplies cost is not petty cash.

The street in front of the house is busy with lots of kids and folk escaping the heat.  Lots of white t-shirted boys out and about too, doing their dealing rounds. I realize skirt length white t-shirts are the fashion. Dressing like a drug dealer became cool when too many children became parents but never learned the meaning of the word. But they're also the m.o. of the dealers who want to blend into the crowd. And you really don't have to wonder at the ones wearing two t-shirts, one black over a white one -- in this heat. When you're running from the cops you just yank off the extra shirt. Works great. Have yet to actually see anyone dealing. They're not nearly so overt as they once were. But it's obvious why they're going in and out of 1715-1717.. I hear Foxtrot overhead, see its floodlamp lighting up the next block. Hopefully the city police are on top of it here as well.

Wednesday, August 11, noon: Yesterday afternoon as I was leaving the house, I looked down the street to see too many boys in their long white t-shirts lounging around on the steps of three houses, on the side next to the little market and two on each side of our house. It was too many to simply be tenants escaping the heat of their tiny apartments and several faces I know don't live here. I did see the black Cadillac sedan, the one used by the crew who stalked me along when I walked past the school to the market a couple months ago. For the first time in a while, I had that worry about leaving the house, but I didn't let it stop me.

Last night, Vaughn was stocking bottled waters in the substation and ran into one of our favorite officers, favorite because he's very effective and really seems to care. Same officer who asked if he could clean up in the substation after a dealer he arrested had bashed him over the head with a "40" (40 oz. malt liquor bottle). "That's what it's here for," I told him. Got some bad news: The guy who showed me his 9mm through the fence during our argument about whose block it was is out of prison already. Been about two years. And already back at work selling crack and heroin in what he claims is his territory. Wrong. We're still here, probably much to his surprise. Revolving door justice. And apparently parole officers don't care what their charges are doing for a living.

The officer asked if we'd seen more dealing. Vaughn replied he thought it was more inside now, that he saw the coming and going through the Pedestal Gardens building where the fire door has been conveniently broken for some time yet again, allowing the dealers easy access and escape. Too often some PGP officers are either not doing their jobs or I suspect the effective ones are being monopolized by the management staff who sees the problem in the main courtyard and wants protection, forgetting about the other buildings.

We've adjusted our drug terrorist alert level a notch higher. Far from crisis mode though. It was inevitable that our progress here would be tested, especially during such fine summer weather.

Friday, August 6, 1pm: Very quiet yesterday afternoon and last night. For a few hours in a row in the very early morning you could have heard a pin drop. That's happened often enough now I don't find the quiet deafening anymore. Not taking it for granted yet, though. No noisy neighbors next door either. No doubt partly because it was so cool. They didn't have to escape outside to beat the heat. The 1715-1717 building was rather quiet, too. The fire door to 1717 appears broken again. I'm sure that was the dealers who want easy entrance and escape. Pedestal Gardens management does not seem able (or is it committed enough?) to fix that problem right. I suspect it's to save money. Still I didn't see any open dealing as I had the mornings before. The checks are mostly cashed and spent now I suspect.

But I also think yesterday's calm had something to do with the commissioned PGP officers who were on during the afternoon and night shift yesterday. They've been here a while. And they're not afraid to do their jobs. The dealers know this and simply avoid the place more when they're on. Thank you Tony and Jimmy. The jury's still out on the effectiveness of some of the new guys. At times some seem oblivious or simply not on patrol, at least not here.

I don't miss being privy to the politics and morale issues of the PGP anymore. I don't miss hearing gossip and being manipulated by one officer who left a few months ago.
He was a good officer most of the time, but the drama and games didn't help anyone. He really wanted things to get very bad here after he left to validate his high opinion of himself, but things are fine. Not perfect, plenty of ups and downs, but fine. Livable. I don't worry constantly when I'm away from home anymore. Of course three dogs, an alarm system and officers using the substation night and day in back does help. <g>

City officers have been busy in our sector. I understand car thefts have been a real problem. I see the Flex team regularly take their lunch in back. Different unmarked car this time. Very effective tactic putting unmarked officers in unmarked cars changed up every once in a while. Officers dedicated to finding the bad guys proactively, rather than waiting to react to a call. The Flex officers seem to enjoy the work, too. I think they know they're making a difference. I sure see it. We also seem to have what I used to call the good shift on afternoons again. However, with the new sergeant on what I used to call the less than good shift, I can't see the night and day difference between them anymore. And that's exactly what Central District Major Skinner told me would happen.

The weather has turned perfect. Right in the middle of summer. It's rare when I can walk through this entire house without being cold or hot. We still don't have a central heating system. Central air conditioning is a luxury I don't even dream of. And when it's quiet on the street, too, you've got one happy camper here on Madison Avenue. And no, I have not begun taking Prozac. <g>

Wednesday, August 4, 2pm: Dealers were working the door to 1717 this morning from at least 9 on. The door was propped open for easy access. An hour or so ago I smiled and waved to three of them as they sauntered past our window, two of them smiling brightly up at me, obviously checking to see if I'd been watching. They went to the corner of Wilson and Madison, did high fives and went their separate ways to continue their work. No doubt they were happy with a lucrative morning at the Pedestal Gardens building. The PGP guy checks in about noon, so that was the cue to change their posts. Now, they'll just use a kid on a bike to watch for the PGP guys, their cell phones always at their ears, and commute in and through the block so the customers have easy access. It's the first of the month. Checks are out and cashed. And getting spent up fast on hits and fixes.

Last night the neighbors at 1710 were at it again. Loud music and yelling. Considered calling the cops but watched and listened from the window behind the tree where I'm not conspicuous. Didn't seem all that bad. A bottle in a paper bag seemed innocent enough. Didn't seem to be much if any dealing. Just loud and inconsiderate. I decided to ignore it. After all, it was very pleasant outside at 2:30 am. Some of the tenants there don't have AC's. The parts of this house without AC were still very, very muggy. After reassuring the dogs it was OK, I went back to bed. They seemed to quiet down by 3 when I drifted back to sleep. Noisy neighbors doesn't bother me much when I see dealers back on the block drawn by the crack magnet that is Pedestal Gardens.

We're considering not having the BBQ this year. Too expensive. We've got to conserve our money for getting the house prepared for winter. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 3, 11:45pm: Things are up and down at the Pedestal Gardens building across the street. I see dealing and commuting dealers at least once each day, but they usually keep moving, unlike when they occupied the block in force not so long ago. We have a few new PGP Officers. They're not commissioned so they're not effective if the problems happen off the property they're charged to protect. Unfortunately, this means there's no buffer zone. That makes it harder for them to do their jobs and much less safe. I think it's also resulted in these officers staying together, often even when there are three of them on at a time. Not very efficient, but understandable if you're scared. We had hoped the radios would leverage their coverage, but that's not been the case.

Last night I had finally had it about 2am when a half dozen people were partying on the steps of 1710, next door. They'd been at it for two hours. Loud rap music blaring. Loud banter and yelling. No consideration for anyone. I was disturbed to be put on hold for 911 but afraid to hang up when they answered with that recording too many of us have heard: "Please do not hang up. Your call will be answered in the order it was received. The following tone is for hearing disabled callers ..." I felt bad at asking the police to come for disturbing the peace, imagining much more serious crimes out there. I almost apologized for the call, but a squad car did come by about half an hour later. The party was still on. I think the officers just warned them, as I wanted. They slowly toned it down and disbanded as everyone began to pass out inside and others skidded away in their SUV. I've wondered more than once if it's such a good thing that house is not vacant anymore. Especially when a heroin dealer was evicted there recently. At least he was evicted. 1710 certainly confirms how much better it is to keep 1704 boarded until a truly committed homeowner/occupant can be found.

Being put on hold by 911 reminded me why we've not seen so many city police officers in the substation. Warm weather keeps them busy. While I was out raking the yard yesterday, two different officers pulled up, used the restroom and left in less than a couple minutes. Both took cold waters from the fridge which have been disappearing. I reminded them about the little popsicles we're stocking for them. Got a smile of thanks as they drove off on another call. A hot muggy day is not the best weather to be an officer in Baltimore.

Tonight I was struck by how many kids were out so late. Finally no rain. They've only now mostly gone inside. They were all over. Mostly from the Pedestal Gardens building. For a while over a dozen young girls were practicing a marching band or cheerleader routine in the middle of the street right in front of the house. Bothered the big dog more than me. I was pleased to see them enjoying a warm summer night, but wishing they had a better, safer place to play. I've been meaning to ask the PGP guys and city officers what they do when they see kids from 2 to 13 out past 10 or 11. Does anyone ask where home is? Where a parent is? When did we stop caring about that?

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