Journal Entries for June, 2003

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Monday, June 30, 6pm: Clarence Weston is here. Boarding up the windows he could never fix. Not boarding the door yet. There are still things in the third floor front apartment to move, she's working on that tonight. And he said to one of the officers it looks like the other is waiting to be evicted.

Clarence boarding

front windows

He also said he was planning on going to court tomorrow in the case of one of those arrested in the apartments he left open. He had promised to prosecute. Apparently, he's following through.

It is truly amazing. I do not know why it had to come to this. Buildings next door and around the block are rented out. No problems from those tenants usually. As several have said to me, Mr. Weston is either very, very stupid or he's been in the pocket of the dealers and was simply doing this to maximize the building's use as a drug den. I don't understand it.

But what counts is it's almost over. Hopefully, we can get hold of the building and use it for a community center, as planned. At the very least I hope the next owner is a responsible one. I do not want to start this war up again.

Sunday, June 29, 4pm: A few less fireworks last night. I'm hearing a firecrackers occasionally even now. Mostly it's just kids letting off steam, enjoying the noisemaking. Still unnerves me after last year. I haven't seen very many of the incendiary type this year. So far. Thank God.

The fireworks do distract police officers and security guards from their work. Sometimes I think that's the purpose. Last night I saw a white Crown Victoria cruising through the alleys real slow. As he rolled quietly through our alley I waved at the Major. He backed up and we chatted for a moment. He was trying to find where they were coming from. Being a hands-on policeman, not a desk jockey. I respect that, as do his officers.

Those with Pedestal Garden's security team seemed preoccupied with matters at the main complex of apartments much of last night. There were no senior or commissioned PGP officers on either Friday or Saturday night, as usual lately. Unfortunately. That left the building at 1717-1715 unsupervised for long stretches during which I saw the same cast of characters who used to stand on our block saunter over from their new roost at the corner of Wilson and McCulloh. It's plain to them when security is not present so they swoop in to take advantage. When I asked one of the security guards why there was no one on post there, as I had been told there was supposed to be, I was informed "He was just there and didn't see anything." My reply: "You don't see much in your car, driving around the block." Someone's supposed to be on foot, visible. A deterrent. Certain PGP staff don't seem to understand. Or they're bored. Frankly, we all want them bored. Officer Brown with PGP told me a couple weeks ago he was looking forward to the day when all he had to do was walk little old ladies across the street. We can hope.

However boring at times, even the non-commissioned officers can do important work. Officer Brown found a loaded 9mm handgun last week while on his foot patrol through the Pedestal Gardens buildings at McMechen and Eutaw. It was hidden amongst some old clothes in a corner of a hall. He was looking for stashed drugs, as usual. The gun's been turned over to the city police lab to be matched against outstanding case ballistic evidence. This officer understands foot patrol. I see him out there constantly, making his rounds, which are too unpredictable for the dealers. He discourages their activities in and around the Pedestal Gardens housing by being conspicuous. Not just responding to crises ... preventing them. Imagine what that gun might have done had a child or crook or just a vandal found it instead. That gun would not have been found by a security guard sitting in his car or in a break room.

At one point in the evening, I became tired of listening to horrendously loud music and hollering from the alley between 1717-1715 and Eutaw Place. Thought it was a Pedestal Gardens apartment as happens often. Not this time. The noise came from an apartment fronting on Eutaw. I have to resist the temptation to assume the worst of the Pedestal Gardens building. As do several of my nneighbors. Like the crack deal Sergeant Kluver made the arrest for on Eutaw last week, it's not always PG.

one more apartment to go!

Yesterday I saw someone moving out of 1704. First time I've ever seen anyone there who had things they couldn't move in trash bags. My neighbors there have either been too poor to have nice things or dealers pretending to live there. These had some nice furniture and appliances. A household. This is the third floor front apartment, not the dealer who lives and works out of the second floor front apartment. I suspect he's going to wait for the sheriff. Business is too good. People still yell up to him from the street to see if his little store is "open." I watched as more than one couple went in to buy again last night. Lately, it's been the place to go for a hit and a quick transaction with a hooker from Eutaw, especially when the vacant apartments are open.

But this moving van means we're down to one apartment still occupied. Very soon we may actually see him out and the building completely secured. Perhaps just days!

Thursday, June 26, 6pm:
Was out in the yard this afternoon for the dogs sake and saw the back door to 1704 open. That was surprising. I thought it was bolted when the little toy padlocks were put up. PGP Special Officer Freund went in through the front to check it out. Came out the back. Sure enough, the apartment door had been opened. He took some pictures ...

from the front door

Some closeups ...

locked? yeah, right

party favors

The little nails and brads were Clarence's answer to the court order requiring "tamper proof locks." I'm surprised they've been up this long.

Obviously yet another little crack, heroin and prostitute party courtesy your host, City Sanitation Supervisor Clarence Weston.

City and PGP Officers will be keeping an eye out to see if anyone tries to revive the party tonight. A city officer I spoke to was glad to know the day is fast approaching no one will be using and selling from that building. I said I will personally keep it boarded and secure since Clarence will probably use scotch tape. The officer said I had every right to be a good Samaritan and help my neighbor fulfill his court order since I would be acting in good faith. Many officers will be happy to help us keep that house locked up tight.

My thanks to three readers who forwarded me a reference to Michael Olesker's column in the Sun today. I recommend it. He articulates the opinion of many. Those of us who can't afford $4000 a plate fund raisers can't see the mayor's highly touted accomplishments. Too many crack houses and drug markets and abandoned blocks in the way. I am particularly amused by his manipulating statistics that look good on flyers and make good sound bites. Adding up each years annual reduction in crime and claiming the total as the improvement so far is ridiculous. Please correct me if I'm wrong: By that method of figuring, if there was a 10% reduction in crime each year for ten years, crime would no longer exist? I guess then we'd have to complain about rampant incidents of unsolicited generosity and kindness, whatever the opposite of crime is. I'm bothered as much by these self serving claims of credit for other's accomplishments as I am by neighbors across the way pretending no progress has been made at all.

Thursday, June 26, 2am: Too hot to sleep. The icemaker is cranking out ice like crazy. Good thing. The officers are using a lot in this heatwave. That was a good Ebay buy.

The heat's making me cranky. When I'm in a mood like this I berate myself for being here, in this neighborhood, living and toiling away in this dilapidated old remnant of a house, punishing myself needlessly in pursuit of thankless and lost causes.

Attitude is everything.

The property owner referred to in Tuesday's entry called within two hours of my posting and left a long message on the machine explaining the situation and assuring me that he was not a crack house slumlord like Clarence Weston. He also posted an entry in the guestbook that day. He took immediate action against the employee who's girlfriend had been arrested. They were both kicked out.

He was not defensive or angry at me for my entry. He had the right attitude: zero tolerance and the willingness to do everything he could quickly to be a responsible landlord. Fortunately for him and the block, these were not tenants. The employee was a guest so he could be evicted at will. Unfortunately for other responsible landlords, like Pedestal Gardens, there are tenants rights involved and the process can take many weeks. I have noticed over the past year a much more aggressive policy in Pedestal Gardens for evicting tenants involved in drug crimes. Often I've seen the sad piles of belongings heralding another eviction and heard the PGP officers tell me who and why. "Oh, yes, she was convicted after we arrested her for dealing."

Vaughn called this Eutaw Placer back and conveyed my appreciation for the concern and prompt action. I don't think he thought I was actually accusing him of harboring crack users and dealers knowingly. He knows if I had been, I would not have hesitated to name him and his address. I was making a point. I think it's been made. No one can be sure of their tenants or employees all of the time, whether two or two hundred.

Watched city officers talking to a scantily clad and surprisingly pretty young woman at the corner last night about 12:30am. She was in the uniform for Eutaw Place streetwalking. Likely heading over to McCulloh and Wilson where that girlfriend bought her crack last night. Anyway, they gave her one of the new criminal citations for indecent exposure. Rather than tying up the officers at Central Booking for such a small crime, they were able to run her for warrants and put a damper on her evening's take, then get back to business themselves.

Funny, an hour later I saw a car stop at the same corner. She got out, strutted around to the sidewalk and bent over to retrieve something. Perhaps something she didn't want on her when the officers pulled up to talk to her. She got back in the car and drove off with her client of the hour.

She had apparently been waiting for PGP Sergeant Kluver to stop talking to me on the street. We were chatting about the nice night until the sergeant went on about his rounds. A young man strolled over to 1704 just a moment after the Sergeant turned the corner. Was in and out in two minutes. I've seen several other customers in the past few days too. Obviously the last remaining dealer there is going to work right up until he's thrown out, just like the others. Wonder if there's a going out of business sale. The legal tenancy for the last two remaining apartments there is over next Tuesday. With any luck the Sheriff will post the notice and the tenants will be out in a couple weeks. Be great if it was next week. We could celebrate the nation's independence and the block's small, but hard fought victory.

About 2am, I heard several loud bangs and turned west to see some pretty fireworks over the Mosque on Wilson Street. Sounded like they were set off right in front of this place. These long, solid brick houses play tricks with sound. I'm hoping for rain all day on the 4th of July with a sudden brief clearing about 9pm for the fireworks over the harbor and then a steady mist the rest of the night. It'll save me spending my holiday hosing down dry tar roofs.

A former Baltimore officer wrote me today to bring my attention to an op/ed piece he wrote for the New York Post. Check it out, please:

I couldn't agree more about the importance of officers on foot and knowing the community you patrol. I believe foot patrols would have prevented the rash of muggings and assaults lately in Bolton Hill and would make the quality of life much better for us in all parts of town. Driving around in cars, dashing from call to call, especially when you're relying on an unreliable 911 system to direct you, is folly. Being there, knowing who belongs, being a conspicuous and reliable part of the neighborhood should be what being a policeman is about. Prevention should be the most important goal of any police effort. We all know the criminal justice system too often fails to punish to be any deterrent at all. And punishment is too late to help the victim, and costs a fortune.

Tuesday, June 24, 3pm: Odd, light knocking on my door about 10 this morning. Didn't hear it at first, not until the dogs announced it. Called out the second floor window as I usually do when I have unexpected guests. No response. Went down to the door, looked through the peep hole. A man was leaning in the vestibule, tapping on the door occasionally. "Who is it? I said repeatedly. Tap, tap, tap was the only reply. He was obviously high on something.

I wasn't about to open the door. Called 911. The operator couldn't seem to get my address right, repeatedly. She seemed distracted. At least it didn't sound like they were having a party as it has before.

With the dogs and other means of defense at my disposal, I wasn't too worried. Just another drugged out guy, probably looking for a high. Perhaps he thought he was at 1704, as has happened several times at 3AM.

Anyway, I went out into the yard with the dogs. The man was stumbling slowly through the vacant lot across the street, on his way to Eutaw. I waited, expecting officers any minute. I waited. I decided to walk back and make a pot of coffee. I came back out. Still no police. I went back and made a pot of iced coffee with some of our now plentiful ice. I then cleaned up the substation a bit.

More than 20 minutes later, two officers pulled up. One said he's heard it was McCulloh Street. The other had heard Madison. Anyway, I knew one of the officers and asked, "were you guys especially busy? I wasn't too worried, but I wanted you to see this guy. He's not in condition to be walking around."

"No, we responded within two minutes." And they left to see if they could spot him on Eutaw.

I'm convinced we got big problems with the competence of our 911 staff and procedures. I've said this before, you must be prepared to handle your own defense until the police arrive. In a crisis, while taking whatever steps you need to on your own, be prepared to dial 911 repeatedly until you get an operator who can handle the call and get the word out.

No doubt thanks to the warmer weather, there have been repeated reports on the Bolton Hill bulletin board of increased assaults, some roving groups of identically dressed youths and vandalism there. Some of these reports say the same thing about poor response times. I strongly suspect it is not often lazy officers, it's incompetence at 911. Something must be done. It frustrates those of us who rely on the officers and the officers themselves when they don't even get the chance to respond promptly. And naturally we tend to blame them when they do show up.

There have also been reports from my neighbors directly across the Pedestal Gardens property at 1717-1715 Madison Avenue of attacks on their homes with fireworks. They talk of a conspiracy from residents there again. Just like they said last year. I thought after the Dawson massacre, we wouldn't hear such selfish paranoid delusion again. I'm here 95% of the time. My window is open and my ear and eyes are wide open until the wee hours. There have been no such attacks unless they're doing it with silent fireworks and somehow avoiding being seen by the PGP, city officers and me. I'm told they also have not called 911 to report this firebombing and conspiracy and can produce no burned casings or other evidence. Regardless, when I see suspicious activity, I call the police and alert the PGP, take notes and am prepared to help directly if necessary, as I would any neighbor.

They say there's been no progress around here since last year. What utter BS! There's been a lot of progress. It's much better. But, to borrow a line from the mayor's reelection campaign, "better isn't good enough." All of us involved are working hard to make things better here. Working, not just complaining. And of course nothing will be good enough for these affluent property owners on Eutaw other than driving out all the poor folks over here. God knows, living next to them is intolerable <g>: their kids play basketball in the alley, there's occasionally loud music (usually responded to promptly by PG security) and people hanging out around their building (they don't have yards), talking and visiting. As I've written here before, so far, the activity around the building is usually normal life. Last year that didn't happen as much thanks to the swarms of dealers. I'm glad residents from around feel safe enough to come out and visit. I see it a lot more on my side of the street now, too. The good ones, saying hi, enjoying the night air, visiting like neighbors should. But poor folks and Section 8 housing aren't good for property values. That's their bottom line.

I guess I take it as a personal affront that anyone would claim things are not better here, especially to further their own selfish agenda. Many people, including city police and Pedestal Gardens management continue to work hard and the results are clear.

We still have incidents. We still have dealers. We have occasional cherry bombs in our street, domestic disturbances, loud car radios and everything else you'd expect. We have fireworks going off, usually blocks away. It's that time of year. And there are still serious problems with dealers here and over on Wilson and McCulloh where they've retreated just enough to stay out of sight of PGP. That can't help but spill back this way. We are in the inner city. It's always going to take work to make it better and keep it that way.

Sergeant Kluver of the PGP reported an arrest he made late the other night. He followed a woman who made a drug purchase at McCulloh and Wilson to her steps in an apartment house on Eutaw at the corner of Laurens. He knows she lives there because she had her boyfriend go in to fetch her ID before being carted off to jail. If the management of Pedestal Gardens is culpable for the fireworks damage last year, which didn't even emanate from their building according to an eye witness, and the dealing on this long neglected block, then I wonder if we should prosecute the landlords on Eutaw for the offenses of their tenants? Are they running a drug house like Clarence Weston? Do they care who they rent to or what the tenants are doing?

Speaking of Clarence's once thriving drug emporium, it's a lot quieter. Just another sign of progress around here. Officer Arthur told me this afternoon, as he got an ice water in the substation, that he's been checking it out. I think the repeated visits by city officers and PGP specially commissioned officers have dampened the allure of the place. And soon, with any luck, the remaining tenants will be out of there and the place secured. And you can damned well be assured it will stay secured until it can find responsible management. Again, because some of us, like the officers, work on making things better, not work on complaining.

Sunday, June 22, 8pm: There's an icemaker in the substation now. Won't be enough to handle the BBQ, but it'll save some money on buying ice and should keep the officers with cold drinks this summer. If sunny weather ever comes back to stay.


It was nice to do something new to make the substation just a bit more useful.

Probably something they'll appreciate too is the new fence we put up over the vacant back lot of 400 Wilson Street between the tiny church there and the Druid Heights Community Association housing. We got permission from both to mount it to the building. For the last two years, that lot has been a stash place and public toilet.
I emailed this picture to the mayor and everyone else I could think of summer before last in an effort to get the abandoned house there boarded up so the dealers wouldn't use it night and day ...

402 Wilson Street crackhouse

Joann Copes, Deputy Commissioner of the DHCD promptly took care of this once we got to her. She's left the agency now. We miss her.

Anyway, the lot now looks like this ...

new fence

It won't be convenient for crackheads to smoke what they've scored around the corner at the store anymore. T
he lot won't be an escape route for suspects. Perhaps it won't be a public toilet anymore either. The stench on the warmer days has rivaled my dog's worst deposits.

Good many people out and about on the street and around the Pedestal Gardens building lately when the rain's stopped, but it's a lot different crowd. More moms and kids and some dads playing and innocently visiting. I haven't heard many disturbances beyond the occasional too loud stereo. Normal city life. No firecrackers or fireworks from that area. The few we've had so far are concentrated up the block and over a couple. Very little loitering at 1704 now either. Just this morning, Officer Arthur and PGP Officer Brown toured inside to make sure it was still secure. It was. The two remaining apartment's legal tenancy is up at the end of the month. If they're still there, the sheriff will be posting the eviction orders early in July. If we're lucky, we'll see it boarded up inside of three weeks. What a relief.

Ah, a loud bang. This one several blocks west of us. It is the season. Still, not like it was last summer. I keep saying it, though still afraid I'll jinx it: things are better. We'll see what the hot summer brings, but I'm hopeful.

11:30PM: Just saw and heard an aerial incendiary firework go off from the front of 1715, directly across the street. Flew pretty high. Don't know where it landed.  The guy who set it off just before he got in his car is a known dealer around here. His description and plate are familiar to us all and I've relayed them to 911. No SPS officers around. I don't know why they don't have a foot patrol officer on duty like we were told to expect months ago. Perhaps they're busy with problems in other part of Pedestal. A deterrent presence would have prevented the incident or at least the security officer would have been here to see who did it.

Sunday, June 22, 1AM:  
I've been listening to some cherry bombs, as we called them when I was a kid, and seen some aerial fireworks tonight. Mostly over to the west. Just occasional. Some in Bolton Hill must think they're being shot at again. By this time last year, we were already hearing them constantly. That year, the neighborhood had a regular visitor from Pennsylvania, an entrepreneur who brought trunk loads of fireworks in every few days. Sold them right out front. He must have made a small fortune. The 911 operators didn't take dealing in fireworks seriously that summer, just as they didn't consider them important last July 4th. It was hard enough getting them to respond to calls about the crack market across the street, next door and on the corner. "What's new?" I always thought they were saying under their breaths as I tried to convince them to send help.

I've seen several patrols by city officers tonight. A couple times they've parked on the corner for a bit. One or two have gotten waters from the substation. Even though it hasn't been raining much tonight for a change, the dealing around here seems light. I've heard Foxtrot swooping around and just now watched as a couple boys, not more than 14, rode their bikes down the alley and back around front, watching as if being chased. 1AM. Where are the parents? No doubt it'll get crazy around here toward bar closing time. It always does on a weekend.

Received a letter today. The "BELIEVE in Your Neighborhood Program, sponsored by Comcast, Mayor Martin O'Malley and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts" have presented the Madison Wilson Neighbors Association with a $400 grant for our street festival/substation anniversary/crack house closing celebration/BBQ. Got to come up with a better name for it, I think. We'd applied for $1000. Since last year's shindig cost about that and we expect this year's to be bigger, we'd hoped for more help. But every dollar will make it that much better.

The grant comes with strings. I understand some of them, designed to discourage abuse of the money donated by Comcast for events just such as this, but others rankle me: I don't like being told that no competitor of Comcast can be credited should they support the event. I guess we're not allowed to ask DirectTV for help, even though their little dish sits on top of the house.

And in every printed reference and press release we're to include specifically the following credits:

"Special thanks to Comcast, Mayor Martin O'Malley and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts."

When we get the check, you can bet we'll be grateful for the help, as will the kids, but I think demanding this smacks of buying advertising for a cable company and a political candidate. And why would we thank an office supported by taxpayers too?  I'd rather say thanks to Comcast, the same way we did our contributors last year, and thanks to city taxpayers.

Vaughn disagrees. He thinks I'm too cynical. I am ... selectively. I suppose it's moot, though. The contract we must sign says nothing about website promotion and we're going to advertise mostly through word of mouth, door to door. We want those who are interested in the block to attend, whether they're website readers from across town or those who live here. Like last year, it's about the progress and future of a long neglected block. And that's all about the kids and adults who care. No doubt word of the Moonbounce and the BBQ will bring 'em from all around the neighborhood.
The kids will run around and play and stuff themselves silly. "It's free? I can have two?" they'll say. The adults will meet neighbors and maybe new friends.

The program will be short, like last year. Just an observance of why we're celebrating. A few of our officers will attend. It should be a good time. Please mark your calendars for Wednesday, September 10, after work, starting about 5:30, though the Moonbounce will be set up so it's ready when school lets out at Eutaw Marshburn, just like last year.

As the event comes together, you can bet you'll see news here.

Thursday, June 19, 1pm: It continues to be surprisingly quiet around here. There have been arrests by both PGP and city officers, of course. Quiet is a relative term. But certainly there's been a lot less "greens, greens, greens, greens, greens out!" God how that incessant chanting used to drive me crazy. I do still hear it through the alley occasionally, from McCulloh Street. I know Carlton is working on that with several city officers, some of whom stop in the substation for a bottle of water and a restroom break.

There is still traffic in and out of 1704. Last night Vaughn saw a young white skate boarder go in. Odd around here. He must be going on last year's buzz about this being the place to score. He won't be alone when surprised by the building being boarded up and then, if we're lucky, a community center. I wonder how many crack users will stumble up to that door soon asking "where that woman I got from last time?" Like I always say to them when they knock here at 3AM, "she ain't here!"

Muggings, assaults and vandalism are on the upswing in Bolton Hill. A few have been reported on the bulletin board for Bolton Hill. This is normal as the weather warms, but PGP tell me they've noticed the car of a known dealer here parked near some of these crimes. They're wondering if there's a connection. There is no doubt proceeds from car breakins, muggings and petty thefts in BH, as well as the prostitution on Eutaw and the northwest part of Bolton Hill, all end up benefiting our network of dealers, headquartered at Pennsy and Laurens with their satellite markets like ours along Wilson Street.

Our house had its 30 seconds of fame last Sunday. That episode of The Wire did show the exterior and interior shots they took last February. Inconsequential scenes. Seemed disconnected, but then the show seems to be having trouble as it shifts from the now boring crack markets of Baltimore to the strife of longshoremen in Dundalk and the sexy intrigue of the Greek mafioso importing Eastern European women for prostitution. I knew eventually cable subscribers would get bored with the lost war on drugs in Baltimore, like so many of our suburbanite neighbors who gave up and moved out long ago.

Meeting tomorrow with a prospective vendor for the radios to connect the PGP with the city police. Hopefully, we can find a cost effective and reliable means to assure the PGP commissioned officers the backup they must have when acting as police officers in and around our community. Interstate Realty Management, the company running Pedestal Gardens, is solidly behind getting this radio system in place, whatever it takes. I respect and appreciate that commitment as well as their determination this year there will be no problems with fireworks in or around their coummunity. Even though they had nothing to do with the fires last year, many blamed Pedestal Gardens tenants and its management. A PR nightmare. I sure appreciate their promised efforts to prevent anything similar this year. Maybe I'll be able to enjoy the rooftop view of the fireworks down on the harbor, rather than playing fireman.

I continue to be amazed and grateful for the help so many have provided in the effort to provide a little break room for hard working police officers. In the past few weeks, Carolyn, Marc, Linda, Julie, Mike, and Matt have donated cash, and air conditioners. We now have three. And they work. Of course one will be installed in the substation soon. The other one will be waiting for the apartments above the community center at 1704. I asked if I could use the extra one in my bedroom. The reply was sweet, something like "you work hard, you deserve it." Neighborhood activism doesn't pay well enough to buy luxuries. I'm sure when summer hits, it will be wonderful. We just bought an icemaker today for the fridge in the substation to help keep ice and cold drinks available for the officers all summer long.

Monday, June 16, 4pm: Foxtrot is buzzing fiercely overhead. Don't know what's up. They seem to be over this area and toward North Avenue. I know prostitution is up a bit on Eutaw, perhaps that's it.

At times this weekend I realized I was neither scared, angry or depressed. The absence of any of these emotions felt odd. My entry for Friday about the Williams touched some nerves, eliciting several emails and a few guestbook entries.  In response to one supporter's comments, I wrote "things on the block this weekend have been OK, with the possible exception of the near riot just across the school from us last night." A party had gotten out of hand. That can happen anywhere though. On our street things were pretty quiet Friday and Saturday, no doubt helped by the watchful eyes of the PGP.

young lady with six vials

Last night it was quiet, too. I wasn't aware officers in our sector had been clamping down, including the corner of Wilson and McCulloh, until I looked out the window and saw this. The yellow hue is a result of the low light level shot. I once made the mistake of not turning off the flash and had a chorus of "you can't take pictures, that ain't legal." It is of course, though most times I don't let suspect's faces show clearly. This is Officer Shaeffer and a colleague. He had been following this woman about 1AM this morning. When he went to stop her, she bolted but he headed her off. She had six vials on her, probably intended for a friend too. That's about twice what the average user or dealer carries. No wonder she bolted. 

Officer Shaeffer is back on our midnight shift. Same officer whose tackling and pursuit skills I marveled at almost a year ago. I went out after the suspect was taken away to ask what had happened and was introduced to our new midnight shift sergeant, Mr. Wimmer. Affable, engaged young man, looks 25, actually 38. I think the new Sergeant and Officers Shaeffer and Yates help explain why I've had fewer unpleasant interruptions to my night's sleep.

Sergeant Kluver with the PGP tells me that he's been watching the people involved in some of my reports of things being dropped from apartment windows at his building 1717-1715 and 1700 Madison Avenue. He's convinced that what I've been seeing is innocent, kids trading CDs and the like. Glad to hear it. He's talked to a mom who said she doesn't want her son to have his friends up while she's away so he communicates through the window. Sergeant Kluver has suggested to the moms they discourage the kids from this behavior because it looks so suspicious here. I'm glad I was wrong.

Clarence in his gloves

Happened to look out the window earlier this afternoon as Clarence Weston drove up in his pretty red car. Apparently it was a short work day for city employees. First thing he did was put on his gloves, understandable considering the filth in that building. Then he got a shovel, a fluorescent tube, and dust pan out of his trunk. I was impressed for a moment. Thought maybe one of the two apartments was leaving before they were thrown out or he just cared enough to clean (yes, I still expect him to BEHAVE). Odd, he stayed only about three minutes and hasn't come back.

I'm told time is up for the remaining two apartments at 1704 at the end of this month. At the very lastest, they should be evicted by the end of July. likely sooner. Let's hope. Financing for a proposal to make it into a community center is showing some hopeful progress. Any reader's suggestions for resources or ideas would be appreciated. Please email me.

Friday the 13th, 7pm: Spent the afternoon in court with two new friends.

Tanya and Clayton Williams and their charming kids, five year old Arrissa and eight year old Cedric, are living in fear of a gang of juvenile delinquents and young adults who live across the street. Their problems are much like what we've had, as Clayton lamented in his guestbook entry on this site June 2. More importantly, his comments are even more like what Angela Dawson was saying to anyone who would listen, right up until she and her family were firebombed.

The Williams were at the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse seeking a "peace bond," otherwise known as a restraining order, against two teenaged girls of this gang because of repeated and ongoing problems and specifically an event that occurred the Monday after Easter.

Apparently, the girls, emboldened by cheap beer and no doubt more, had decided to go in the family's yard over a chain link gate and fence while Clayton was away with their German Shepherd. Tanya believes the girls meant to make good on their threat to get the tapes Tanya and Clayton made showing hours and hours of their more than incriminating conduct. This would obviously have involved further breaking and entering. The girls had no business in the yard or on the fence or for that matter in front of the William's house. Fortunately, or perhaps not for the girls, Clayton came home unexpectedly. According to Tanya, the dog went after the girls inside the yard, clawing through the gate after her until Clayton, with his left arm in a cast, was able to stop it. The girls were bitten as they climbed out and over the fence. Clayton is now facing criminal assault and reckless endangerment charges and a civil suit, no doubt of the type Leviness, Tolzman and Hamilton seem to advertise: nothing is your fault and you have a right to compensation for it.

The Williams understandably now fear retaliation, but today they had decided not to pursue the restraining order because they were offered mediation by a Colonel Sistrunk with the city police and led to believe the girls' parents had agreed to it. I believe they sincerely wanted to make a gesture of cooperation and good will.

Much to Mrs. William's surprise, the two girls were represented in court by a private lawyer. She hadn't thought she'd need one. Judge Martin Welsh remarked how unusual this was in such a hearing where procedural rules are relaxed and most people or their parents represent themselves. Their lawyer pressed for a dismissal of the petition vehemently. After hearing both sides, Judge Welsh determined there was cause to proceed. Even though the Williams had no lawyer, the hearing proceeded. Tanya testified about the situation and how she feared these people, especially the two girls, who she has said vowed revenge. Tanya was then contemptuously interrogated by the respondent's attorney who attempted to confuse and manipulate her answers. The lawyer attempted to try the criminal and civil cases pending until the judge corrected her about what was in question before the court: Do the Williams have cause to fear these girls?

The lawyer brought the girl's brother and mother to the stand. To no one's surprise, they had seen no misconduct on the girl's part. The judge said "move along" to the lawyer as she attempted to belabor the fact that the girls and he and their friends were doing nothing at all wrong. Apparently, Tanya and Clayton had imagined all this to cover their dogs malicious and unprovoked attack ... in the Williams' yard, mind you.

Not being prepared for the ferocity of the family's lawyer, Tanya didn't now how to defend herself or introduce her testimony or that of her husband and children in the format required for court proceedings. No one was there to ask questions of her and introduce her evidence to make a case like the lawyer for the respondents did. She did bring a video tape that she said showed how these girls and their group were behaving over two days and would rebut the brother's testimony that he had not been drinking. Unfortunately, the courtroom video player was not working so the judge began talking about a continuance. Tanya decided that in the interests of moving this along, she would forgo showing it. She was sobbing at times and obviously wanted this matter finished. Tanya and the lawyer made their closing arguments.

If the judge had seen the tape as evidence itself, I believe he would at least have ruled in favor of ordering the two girls to keep away from the Williams and their property. It's so little to ask: Can you order them to stay away from me and my kids and my house and yard? As it was, he chose to withhold judgment for 90 days pending the results of the mediation and ordered the unwilling girls to participate.

The mother could not control herself and blurted something about this taking too much time and risking her job. (I wonder how much time it would have taken to supervise the "children.")  The judge commented that if something "positive" happened within the 90 days, Mrs. Williams could withdraw her petition.

I sat down a bit ago and watched the two hour tape. It is infuriating to watch. At times it looked like my home movies from last summer. The crowd is loud and rowdy. Cars come and go, lingering only long enough to exchange things, sometimes staying long enough to show things they have in a trunk, while discussing some business on cell phones. Hmm, I wonder what? The brother was drinking. One of the girls is seen drunk, angrily wielding a broken beer bottle at someone, another girl is seen flashing the finger at Tanya while she was taping from inside her house across the street. Bottles are smashed into the street over and over. All were drinking out of large beer bottles and smoking. Obviously, these kids were more than out of control.

At one point in the tape, you see two police cars arrive and just before they do, almost everyone clears off the porch and street. The ones remaining say "what party?" For all the world it looks peaceful. Just like it does here after I call the police. It becomes your word against theirs. They don't have time to watch video tapes ... somewhere there's probably a murder or gang fight or robbery to attend to. As it does on the Williams' tape, everything starts right back up again as soon as the police leave. Tanya says she was advised by the officers responding to call the Community Relations Officer for the district, Sergeant Roper. She tried to reach him several times as the party raged on over the two days.

My afternoon visiting someone else's drama began after I emailed Clayton thanking him for his kind words in the guestbook about our efforts here and empathizing as much as I could with their situation. We exchanged a few emails. Never being one to give up on a house, neighborhood, city or mayor, I could not believe Mayor O'Malley would not want to look into this himself immediately. So, I emailed him.

I recall very well his impassioned promises around the time of the Dawson tragedy.

He emailed back asking them to write him directly. She did. Here's her email to the mayor.

He wrote back saying he would refer this matter to someone. He did. His "ombudsman for Baltimore City, " Reggie Scriber. Here's Tanya's take on his first phone call to her.

I wish I hadn't expected better from the Mayor's staff. Here's my follow up request to the Mayor.

A day or two after this, the Colonel's staff called Tanya and told her they wanted to conduct a mediation between the neighbors, implying the girls and their families had agreed to it.

Prior to this, the same staff discussed relocating the Williams. Tanya and Clayton do want to move, (who wouldn't, especially with a five and eight year old?) but can't afford it. I'm wondering if the best Baltimore can do is offer help to those families who can't afford to do what so many thousands of other families have done: move away from the city. A solution for some that has made the problem so much worse for those who stay behind.

This reminds me of the City Council hearing the Police Commissioner's request for expanded authority to write civil citations yesterday. As reported in the Sun, almost immediately, juveniles were exempted at the request of Kenneth C. Mantague, Secretary of the State's Juvenile Services Department and Patricia Jessamy, States Attorney for Baltimore City. Why would it be wrong for an officer to ticket a "child" for loitering or other public nuisances? What would be wrong with requiring the parents to pay the fine or explain why their "babies" were on the street in a drug zone at midnight or partying with cheap beer and marijuana in the street for two days straight?

We're too afraid to hold anyone responsible for their conduct here. Parents are not responsible for their children unless there's a civil suit and money at stake. Three separate arrests for possession of crack with intent to distribute in three months results in time served and probation. And, of course, landlords who willingly allow crack and heroin dealers to use their property as a stash, storefront and business office get off with no punishment.  

No one is responsible. Not criminals. Not elected officials. We're at war here and have been long before our war with the terrorists abroad. It's time to give the soldiers we send to it every legal weapon they can use, not withhold authority to get things done because it's an election year. Irresponsible parents, people who loiter in drug zones and those who deal drugs and the landlords who work with them should be made to explain themselves. They should not be protected because it would be politically incorrect to ask for some responsibility.

New York City is better. Why can't Baltimore really move forward?

How this city treats the Williams could be a clear answer to that question and another, very sobering one:

Have we learned anything from the Dawsons?

Wednesday, June 11, noon: Found myself bothered last night by what looked to be a middle aged white man loitering around in front of 1704, 1706 and our house. He had parked in front, too. I noticed him from the back side window over the substation where I'm trying to put in some new windows. When I went up front to get a better look, he got in his shiny Toyota and drove too slowly away.

He seemed very out of place and unfamiliar with it, looking around. I could think of a few reasons he might be there at 11PM. None of them good. Vaughn said, "he was probably just here looking for crack. Be happy. He didn't find it at 1704 for once." The city and PGP officers had been out front just a bit before.

From around the corner much of the night, I heard the too long familiar "greens out, greens out, greens out!" At one point a harmonic chorus of a young woman, two boys who's voices broke as they sang out, and one mature baritone. The corner of Wilson Street and McCulloh is proving this season's hot spot. I thought about that last night and realized the reason we aren't as often so far has a lot to do with the presence and 50+ arrests by the PGP Officers: Kluver, Freund, Vogt, Brown and Melcher.

The good parents of 1717-1715 must notice the difference too. Who would have thought the neighbors around a Section 8 apartment building might benefit from it? Of course, the very nature of the population of the Pedestal Gardens Community is vulnerable to exploitation by our drug gangs.

On the front page of today's online Sun, there's an article I highly recommend about a poetry program at Lombard Middle School, not far from where the Dawson's were burned to death in their horrific massacre. Here's an excerpt ...

"I saw a woman get pistol-whipped today because she came up short with the money...

The drug boys on my block control everything ...

Nothing moves unless they say so ..."

Written by a seventh-grader at Lombard Middle School, the simple words communicate so much. They're meant to open eyes and close wounds.

The short passage ends with a somber plea:

"I am just 12 years old ...

What can I do if the grownups do nothing?"

Reading it, I'm reminded of the many times last winter I saw the kids who used to live next door huddled on their stoop at midnight, with Cheetos flavored foam dinner, waiting for mom to finish settling up with her boss. Or the times an infant was juggled on her mother's lap with a baggie of crack vials and cash. God, I pray the DSS is truly supervising these kids who are supposed to have been moved to acceptable housing.


"This city used to be the City of Dreams

Now it's filled with cocaine, murder and fiends."

Anyway, at 2PM this afternoon the book they produced is to be distributed at a book-signing in front of what's left of the Dawson home at 1401 East Preston Street.
The Dawson home

If you haven't been, and you're concerned about Baltimore, I highly recommend going to this place. The energy is palpable. To me, touching the building felt like the point at which hope and hell collided one night. The charred remains of it are still warm with pain, though our leaders and rampant apathy have let it cool for some. The night those kids were burned alive last fall, despair and hoplessness and death had an overwhelming victory in our city.

And today, some kids from their neighborhood are asking why ... in poetry. As adults and leaders, we owe them less an explanation for our failure, more an all out, real effort to create solutions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2AM: Met yesterday at the HERO facility on Maryland Avenue with the perfect group of people to discuss a new life for 1704. There were representatives from the City CouncilHERO, Patrick Allison House and HUD. Each brought needed expertise and enthusiasm for the opportunity to make something useful for the neighborhood out of what's been so destructive.

At this point, we have just addressed the needs and the possibilities. Now, we will begin work on the resources and numbers to see if a viable, self sustaining program including an after school drop in center for our neighborhood's kids can be done. The building would be owned and operated by the new Madison/Wilson Neighbor's Association for which we hope to organize a general meeting soon.

As with the meeting in January of so many lawyers with the Community Law Center, the State's Attorney's Office and the Department of Housing among other community leaders, it was inspiring to see so many willing and in positions to help.

We're counting down the days to the closure of this crack house. 51. Soon, maybe, we'll be counting the days to the opening of a community resource.

Vaughn's church, First & Franklin Presbyterian, is having the first of it's summer movies tonight at 6:30. They have a great new sound system, air conditioning and provide free soda and popcorn. Tonight's movie is Baghdad Cafe. And you don't have to be a member or a Presbyterian. It isn't about that. This is provided as public service to the neighborhood, designed to get neighbors together. First and Franklin has donated to the substation parking fund and it's members are among our Friends. This is one church that tries to be a neighbor and to help right where it lives. The church is near the corner of Park Avenue and Madison Street.  Call 410.728.5545 or email Vaughn for more information, including the upcoming movies.

Sergeant Kluver and Officer Vogt have been working together tonight. They seem busy. Too busy to stop and chat. A lot of slinging on Wilson nearer McCulloh. I've heard a woman scream "greens out" many times from down the alley. Mr. Douglas of the funeral home there is irate again. Calling anyone who'll listen. Even trying to get the Commissioner's ear. We've heard firecrackers many times through the night, though thankfully very few aerials. I smelled a house fire earlier and thought of the fires of last July 4th. Something none of us want to see again. I expect I'll spend the holiday again this year on the roof with garden hose at the ready, watching for fireworks, both good and bad. At least this year things likely won't be as dry.

Monday, June 9, 2:30AM: A dealer who lives in 1715 (he's known to both city and PGP officers) has been cruising around the back alley, and driving through the block, often with his lights off. Strange behavior. Sergeant Kluver says it's booze and crack. He's creepy, that's for sure.

There's a car idling in front of our house now. The driver has walked in to 1704. His partner has his cell phone glued to his ear. Mid level guys bringing in more inventory and taking away the money. I see them around here often.

Earlier a woman, very high, was screaming her lungs out. PGP guys heard her and checked out if she was OK. I'd guess she'd scored in 1704. The dealer there was hanging out the window of the second floor, as he often does, watching the cops. So many people "visiting" all day. The officers went in to see what was going on. No one to catch. They told me the doorways to the vacant apartments are still padlocked, however flimsy, but the halls are littered with new vials and needles and garbage. Anxious customers who can't wait to get their high.

Obviously the dealers intend to keep using their crack house right up to the last minute. I'm sure the Sheriff will have to show up. No doubt we'll end up with the garbage they live with all over the street, pretending it's someone's possessions. Still, it'll be a happy day.

Apparently our Councilman, Keiffer Mitchell, feels the commissioner's proposal to expand police authority to write citations will infringe on civil liberties. I'm always hearing the dealers and users say things like "it's my right to be here" even when it's obvious what they're doing. I gather the Councilman thinks it's a constitutional right to loiter in a drug market when you're obviously either buying or selling. The legal issues of what the commissioner's proposing have been dealt with in NYC. We don't have to reinvent the wheel here. And the strategy works. What we have been doing hasn't.

While brushing my teeth a few minutes ago, I happened to look out into the alley as an officer drove up. He was just here to use the restroom. That's what it's there for. Across the alley I saw into one of the Druid Heights Community Association's apartments. A young mom doing some housework. An enormous big screen TV was on. A boy who couldn't have been more than nine was about two feet from it, staring intently. It's nearly 3AM. At least he's not on the street.

4 East Madison Guesthouse

I had a nice break from the house last night. A birthday party for one of the proprietors of the new bed and breakfast at 4 East Madison Street. Good company. Wonderful food. Beautiful, truly beautiful restored mansion in the prime area of Mount Vernon. A half hour's walk from here, but a vastly different world.

Ah, must be 3. The WM truck is here for 1717-1715, banging the dumpster, rattling the ground clear across the street. Seems important to them the entire neighborhood gets awakened. I was rather hoping all the dealers and users had finally passed out for the night. At least creepy car seems parked for the night. I'm going to try to get some sleep now. The neighborhood mosque's call to prayer is only a couple hours away.

This afternoon we're having a meeting to explore possible uses for 1704. It's supposed to have only 52 more days as a crack house, at most. Several interested people. Good experience and ideas among them. I'm looking forward to it. It'll help make the dream of making this crack house into something productive seem more tangible.

Sunday, June 8: There's at least two active stashes in 1717/1715 Madison today. I watch the guys come and go, reupping as they make their sales. I think they're selling at Wilson and McCulloh, around the corner. I can see they have a lookout woman in the window of 1700 Madison, keeping an eye out for the police.  When the SPS guys aren't around, that place quickly reverts back to being a tool of the trade for the dealers.

There's at least two dealers operating out of 1704 too. I'd lay odds the shabbily padlocked apartment doors are ajar. God, I can't wait to see that place securely boarded up. I have the plywood and screws. I'm sure Clarence will scotch tape it closed. I don't know if he's being prosecuted for his violation of probation. I wouldn't be surprised if he's avoided that. He's avoided any other semblance of responsibility here.

It's just after the first of the month. The government checks are cashed and being handed to the dealers. That's life around here.

Amazing how fast things go from "yeah, it's better" to "back to normal."

Thursday, June 5: 

PGP Officer Brown told me he saw many police with a lot of suspects being stopped on North Avenue between Pennsylvania and Eutaw this morning about 8:30. That's a pretty dismal stretch, as you may know. He said "you gotta hand it to the new commissioner, he means business."

I added "I used to be angry with Norris for leaving us. Now I'm glad."

Council President Sheila Dixon was on Don Scott's morning show on channel 13 today. She voiced support for Commissioner Clark's request for expanded authority to issue citations for loitering and other nuisance crimes. $200 for loitering in a drug free school zone has been mentioned. That covers our area surrounding Eutaw Marshburn Elementary. There's to be a hearing at 4 this afternoon before the council. Let's hope they give the Commissioner what he wants. Obviously, we must try new approaches.

I've been corresponding with Tanya Williams whose husband Clayton wrote a disturbing entry in the guestbook a few days ago about their family's plight on Gwynn Falls Parkway in Hanlon, not far from Mondawmin Mall. It sounds, God forbid, like a Dawson family tragedy in the making and so I told the mayor in an email. He has replied and I am hoping can help this family before they have to move or worse. I've posted the correspondence here.

I say he, meaning the mayor, has replied. Someone did, using the address Last December, in reply to an agonized and desperate email from me, someone in his office responded " Bryan - hang in there. And have a happy holiday season. Martin O'Malley, Mayor."   I have always given him the benefit of the doubt this was an overworked, speed reading staffer and not the mayor himself. How could he possibly answer all the email he must get? Certainly our mayor would not be so flippant and unconcerned.

Anyway, we have hung in here, by the smallest shreds of hope at times. And things are often better now, thanks to so much hard work on the part of many. I hope we can get all those who have helped together at the substation anniversary party coming up in September so I can thank them personally.

Just received a letter from Ms. Dixon's office from Commissioner Clark in reply to her request to arrange radio access so PGP officers can get effective emergency backup.

In his letter denying permission he says ...

"It would not be prudent ... because listeners would know how many, when, where and what our officers are responding [to]."

The reason makes sense until you know a scanner capable of covering the Baltimore police bands is readily available in retail stores. I know. The PGP officers have one. Why would he not know this? How many do you suppose are in the hands of the drug dealers? There's a reason the slingers all know when an officer is en route. I've seen dealers with cell phones in one ear and scanners in the other. The price of a scanner beats the price of bail I'm sure.

I'm pretty sure I've seen the dealers on The Wire with scanners, too. Perhaps this commissioner isn't an avid fan like the last. I hope not. This one acts like a commissioner, not like an actor.

Apparently he was unaware of the Major and PGP Sergeant's compromise solution of providing a separate radio to the city's shift sergeants here and the commissioned PGP officers. That actually will work better I think. I hope they get them in use soon, since the Major has kindly offered it.

There was an article in yesterday's Sun about civic leader Beltran Navarro's life and funeral. Mayor O'Malley said of him ...

"He was never afraid to speak truth to power."

We need more Baltimoreans who are not afraid. But who can blame those who are?

Wednesday, June 4: I relit the heater in the substation this morning. In early June. It'd gotten into the 50's in there overnight. I expected by now to be concerned about air conditioning.

Jenn Spiro brought us a new first aid kit, tin of coffee, a box of cookies and some other goodies for the substation yesterday. It was a pleasure to chat. Every once in a while an officer will come into the substation scraped up. One time, a young officer came in dripping with beer and glass shards in his hair from a scuffle with an unwilling dealer on the corner. He didn't want to go to the hospital. "There'd be paperwork and I'd probably be on light duty for a week." Had a spare uniform in his trunk. He was just grateful for a private place to clean up, change and get back to work.

I was going to rail against the new "Reason to Believe" campaign yesterday. There was an article in the Sun about it and accusations it's more about promoting Mayor O'Malley than the city. I'm skeptical of $650,000 spent to change perceptions, not reality, however, today's Sun Opinion section has a piece defending the program.

"It hopes to raise $30 million over the next two years to provide treatment for addicted mothers, finance pre- and after-school activities and supplement overtime expenses for law enforcement personnel. (So far, $21 million has been pledged.)"

$650,000 to raise $30,000,000 seems a good investment. Especially since I understand that money has come from donations, not city coffers. 

I'm still bothered by the original Believe campaign. It seemed to say "the problem with Baltimore is we don't believe things are better." It's our perception that needs improvement. A theme of Council President Dixon's letter on her website, too. They go on and on about improved statistics. The original "Believe" report can be downloaded in Acrobat form here.

I believe in much of the city the quality of life is not better. Believing it is and reality are two different things. A recent guest book entry, by Clayton of Hanlon Street sums it up ...

"i started talking to my neighbors and everybody has a horror story.i was amazed. all talk about moving and all for the same reason. ... i wish i could "rebuild hanlon" but i have to raise two children first and it cannot be done here. i hope we get out of here before they kill us."

The perceptions we really need to change are those in city hall. More work. Less image promotion. More ideas, like the new police commissioner's use of citations.

The perception things are improving here will follow when more of us see the reality of it.

Sunday, June 1: I don't know what it was last night. Though I was tired, I couldn't get to sleep. Maybe it was the quiet. I'm not used to it. During some very tense times, I used to tell Vaughn that I'd figured out it wasn't the noisy people we had to worry about. I hope we get a chance to get used to this. When there isn't a steady stream of dealer's and buyer's cars or slingers all over the street hawking their products and dazed or frantic customers screaming for service, it's as quiet as the country side here. In the middle of the city.

I spoke to Major Gutberlet last night toward the end of his customary Saturday night work on the streets. Thanked him for the recent efforts. He said that all the work they've been doing down at Pennsylvania and Laurens had pushed the market over this way, and that's what they'd been trying to address. This has included The Commissioner working here, too, as I wrote recently.

The Major and Sergeant Kluver of the PGP have come to a compromise on the subject of radios for better communication between their officers. The City Police Brass is adamant about not allowing private security people, even those with sworn commissions as police officers, to use city police bands. However, his idea is to have each sergeant in our sector meet with the PGP at the beginning of his or her shift to pick up a radio that the PGP could use to communicate directly, bypassing city dispatch entirely and completely avoiding the fiasco of calling 911.

In the most critical scenario, a PGP officer in trouble would communicate directly with the sector sergeant who could immediately drive over while summoning appropriate additional backup on the city police band. This could result in even faster city response than going through dispatch first.

The Major said this is what they do with the Hopkins security team. He added he knows and appreciates the PGP have been very effective in our area (40+ arrests this year alone) and have saved the city officers a lot of work in the Pedestal Gardens Community.

I applaud this solution to backing up the PGP and helping them work together better. Now, I expect SPS, the PGP officer's employer, and Interstate Realty Management, the company managing Pedestal Gardens, to immediately buy the professional quality radios necessary to accomplish this and get them in service. The Major's proposal should be accepted and acted on without delay.

In today's Sun, I see Commissioner Clark is lobbying for the police to have authority to write civil citations for what some call nuisance crimes like loitering. Anyone who lives in areas of Baltimore like this one will tell you drug dealers loitering in front of your house is far more than a nuisance. It's terrorism. This strategy proved very effective in NYC. Support is strong with the council. I hope we can get this plan into action without delay.

No doubt at the behest of the residents of Eutaw Place, I was told city police will be stationed in this area over the 4th of July holiday this year. No one wants a repeat of the fireworks damage we had last year.  I'd sure prefer to spend this holiday celebrating rather than spending hours on my roof with a hose in one hand and a phone in the other. I hosed down every roof I could reach, along with the vandals "accidentally," while arguing with 911 operators that there's a difference between fireworks displays and incendiary devices being shot at buildings. Last year I think the only reason we got officers dispatched by 911 was because I threatened to use a very loud 12 gauge noise making device myself to defend my home if police officers didn't respond.

Planning is getting under way for an anniversary party for the substation, probably in September. The street party last year seemed fun for all, especially so many ravenous and rambunctious kids. Perhaps this year we'll have the closing of one stubborn crack house to celebrate, too.

Today is very windy. Forecasters say this means the gray, rainy weather we had through May is blowing out, giving way to sunny skies. It's the first of June. A new month. Summer is soon to begin. There are signs of a new season on Madison Avenue, too.

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