Journal Entries January 1 to 13, 2003 (most recent entries first)
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Monday morning, January 13: I've had some productive email exchanges with
one of the security guards charged with supervising the Section 8 apartment building
across the street at 1717-1715 Madison.
I think everyone trying to help here is under a lot of stress. I know readers here
have seen hastily written, exasperated, sometimes bitter comments by me, too. Everyone,
the guards, the management of 1717-1715, Vaughn and I, and all the good folk who
live on both sides of the avenue here are frustrated. Many of the residents here
gave up long ago as I have so often been tempted to do. Some are part of the problem,
like so many of those living in 1704.
Those of us working every day to help, like the security staff, the officers and
I, often get stressed to the breaking point. We want to point fingers, find blame.
We have to remember our divisiveness just weakens the effort against a very
well organized, efficient and ruthless enemy: the dealers who've used this block
for many years.
It has never been my intention to imply that 1717-1715 is the source of the block's
problems. I'm not one of those whose mansions back up to that building from Eutaw.
The ones who see low income renters as the source of all evil and a threat to their
highest priority: property values. Being actually in the middle of it, I see the
problem. I see the dealers drive in. I watch their leaders and their organization.
I know good folk in that building and others on this street are secretly on our side,
rooting for the good guys ... even as they have to live with the bad.
I have often written here that increased presence of the security staff has helped
enormously. I have had suggestions about how best to utilize their efforts, based
on my observations. They may not always have been flattering, but I am constantly
questioning everything here in an effort to make my neighborhood better. I've often
been critical of police strategies, of the big church here, of the school management.
Whatever we're doing here isn't working. Nothing's changed. So we have to question
the old ways and try new approaches until it does.
One new thing is the meeting at the Community Law Center tomorrow. People who can
make a real difference will be there: CLC lawyers, city lawyers, Richard who manages
1717-1715, Major Gutberlet, and leaders of organizations who can help bring about
a change of ownership at 1704, that house which contributes so much to the dealing
and where children live among gun toting criminals and squalor. I'm extremely hopeful
this meeting will be the beginning of the end of that bane of our block. I hope to
have some real progress on this front to report soon.
Saturday night, about 8, January 11: Another guestbook entry, in
fact two, from an angry security guard with the firm employed to supervise 1717-1715
Madison, across the street.
This time the gentleman used a real email address and I recognize him as one of the
guards whom I thought was a friend. Apparently I was only a friend when I was allowing
them to use the police officer's break room and writing flattering things about the
Two BPD officers are down in the substation now, eating their dinners, warming up.
They tell me it's a quiet night. I haven't noticed too much dealing outside either.
Bitter cold and a football game are slowing things down, even prime time on a Saturday
Still, within minutes of the security guard leaving his post just now, an intrepid
dealer is visiting his stash in that building. It only takes a few minutes absence.
Little happens there when the guards are here watching, but the dealers keep watch
on the guards, too, waiting to visit their stash.
I sure do wish 1704 had even part time guards. That way the dealers wouldn't be in
there, warm and watching the game right now, waiting for customers to drive up and
Vaughn and I had a nice chat Thursday night with a City Paper writer.
She met some officers and a Bolton Hiller bringing Pop Tarts for them. She met our
building's security guards, Cino, Latte and Boo, the Pit Bull mutt trio. She took
a tour of the neighborhood with Vaughn. Apparently, she got to see a lot of dealing,
especially out of 1704.
Probably the most notable moment for her was when the officers she was chatting with
hurriedly ran out to help with a car jacking at knife point that had occurred only
two blocks away. They sped off, leaving their suppers on the table. As they rose
to answer the call, they hesitated about leaving a mess, but I said "go, I'll
take care of it." I put it away for them, as I've often done, quietly wishing
them luck. They came back later to finish their lunches, reheating them in the micro.
When I came back down to ask, they were all smiles and proud to report they'd caught
the car and the carjackers. When they left, one said "now I'll be downtown doing
paperwork for hours!"
According to Vaughn, while I was out of earshot, one of the officer's told the reporter
they like this break room because "at other ones, you've got to ask for a key
to the restroom, there's no place quiet, they're dirty and people bother you for
favors." I'm happy they like this little break room, and proud to provide some
small comfort to people who go running off in the night to chase knife wielding carjackers.
(When driving in the city, keep your doors locked.)
Thursday 5PM, January 9: Spent the day doing warm weather work:
caulking, sealing the new substation steps, and then applying 15 gallons of
asphalt roof coating to the roof of the main house. I'm trying to coax another season
out of the old roof. Had to take advantage of this warm day. It felt like 70, though
I'm sure it was 60 at best.
Came down to find someone had signed the guestbook, leaving a nasty, profanity laden
personal attack. Sounded like a disgruntled security guard. Apparently he took exception
to my comments about the security of the building across the street at 1715-1717
Madison. The same one where the impressive helicopter and horse sting took place
yesterday. The same one where I've mentioned so often the nonstop traffic goes in
and out from the market at the corner.
Since he didn't use a valid email address or identify himself, the entry was deleted,
as it plainly states is my policy.
We have allowed the security guards from across the street to use the substation
because they have been helping to contain the problems there, when they are on post.
They are still welcome to use the substation properly, as do so many BPD officers
on three shifts.
The email contained a veiled threat that they won't be there to help me. I never
expected that. Too often they have been preoccupied elsewhere to be near enough to
help should I be attacked. I'm content when they are where they're supposed to be,
actively discouraging dealing in their building, as they are employed to do. I wish
there were guards next door at 1704 to contain that crack circus, but I have reason
to hope that will soon be closed down completely. As for me, I have always put stock
in my own defenses and the many officers whom I know would respond as quickly as
they could should I call 911.
In fact, the other day, I heard a knock on the door about 3AM. I think I've mentioned
it previously. It was a concerned officer who'd tried to call me about 11 and 1 and
got no answer. After a while he'd gotten too worried. Usually, I'm up quite late.
That night I'd tried going to bed earlier. He was so apologetic about waking me,
but I was touched. Talk about community policing.
That same officer and two others have told me how extremely disappointed they are
that the State's Attorney has released the man who fired on officers during a drug
sting at his home. They feel it's been made clear you can shoot a cop and get away
with it. How that must make them want to do their jobs. For God's sake, there was
enough evidence to at least file, Ms. Jessamy. Let a judge and a jury decide the
merits. That's unreliable enough in Baltimore. Instead, you've just done more damage
to police morale. We have senior beat officers counting the days to retirement and
younger ones putting out resumes. Hardly the way to make a safer city.
Wednesday 3PM, January 8: Today's color is blue. Not because of
my mood, but in honor of those in blue who deserve a big thank you today.
I was at my desk working when I heard, quite loudly from overhead "they're coming
out the back!" I realized there was a helicopter over the building across the
street, 1717-1715 Madison, the Section 8 housing.
When I went to the window there were two squad cars and an unmarked unit on Madison
and a plainclothesman running at top speed around the outside of the building. The
helicopter was hovering very low, I almost expected it to land in the vacant lot.
I saw the plainclothes officer unholster and order two young men
to stop. The uniforms caught up with them from inside and the bust was done, but
that's not all ...
Yes, that's a horse! After they had the suspects down, from up
Wilson I heard a clop, clop, clop in between the throp, throp, throp of the helicopter
and here comes a policewoman on her beautiful white horse to help. The pilot said
something pleasantly funny about the horsie to the rescue, it conveyed a comraderie
amongst those officers.
I know I was shocked, but you should have seen the neighbors. School was letting
out. The little ones were fascinated by the beautiful horse. The older ones were
impressed by the show as dramatic as any they'd see on TV. The dealers all slinked
away. Two who'd parked in front of me quietly skulked back from the corner, got in
their car and drove away as inconspicuously as they could. The loud woman who sells
crack from the stoop of 1704 stopped smiling and was very quiet.
I called Major Gutberlet. His secretary asked the nature of the complaint. I said
"no complaint, just want to thank him." I wonder how rarely she hears that.
He picked up and said "Hi Bryan."
I tried to say what I was thinking. It came out a stuttered blurting of words like
"there was a helicopter, a horsie, uniforms, squad cars..."
He replied "you mean the tactical op and the horse patrols," or something
like that. He explained the helicopter had done the surveillance, I guess from way
up because I didn't hear it until it came down. They got their officers coordinated
and swooped in. Then to see the white horse was amazing. We're going to have horse
patrols for a while now. I'm thrilled they're not just for the waterfront.
This orchestration of personnel and technologies old and new was a marvel to behold.
I got that tingly feeling of pride and patriotism you sometimes get when the national
anthem is sung.
I'm still elated. Early this morning I was angry and frustrated. Not unusual around
here. Sometimes I get so angry I want to go out in the street and administer some
vigilante justice. Others I want to shoot myself. Then there are moments like this.
It is absolutely true. Every time I get to the breaking point, something like this
happens and for a moment, however fleeting, I'm reminded things can change. They
can be better. And the only failure is giving up. It's just so damned hard to remember
that sometimes, isn't it?
Wednesday noon, January 8: I've been told some of the SPS guards
are not happy with my comments here and they say there are those with the BPD who
feel the same. That's a shame.
I call it as I see it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
When security or policing are not being done adequately, I'm complaining. I don't
want or expect special treatment. I just want to see the job done.
All I want is for my neighborhood to be a safe place. Period. Should I not have moved
here then? Good question. I think the decent people in this neighborhood deserve
a safe place to live, too, regardless of whether I was here or not. The fact I'm
willing to complain, sometimes loudly and bitterly, is either my doing my civic duty
or stupid. In Baltimore, doing your civic duty often is dangerous, though that should
not be confused with stupidity.
From the guards across the street I want nothing more than deterrence and supervision
of their building. Not heroics. Just conspicuous presence. I want that building controlled.
The security people are trying. I believe the managment company there is trying.
From the Baltimore Police, I want fast responses to 911 calls and patrols frequent
enough to make the corner less hospitable to the dealing. I believe the officers
are trying. And in many cases they've been very effective here, as on November 8 when beat officers effected that very
worthwhile sting next door.
No one is trying to control 1704 Madison Avenue at all. The owner there clearly does
not give a damn about his tenants, the neighborhood, or the city ... even though
he collects a city paycheck. So we are pursuing every available route to close
that crack house down, kick out the dealers and prevent them from using it as they
As with rats, you've got to close off all their nesting places. Without supervision,
1717-1715 becomes a nesting place within minutes sometimes. A place where dealers
keep their stashes and terrorize residents, just as they are doing next door at 1704.
We're doing something about next door. We've been waging war on that house for months,
in the media. Meeting next week with lawyers and other
neighbors at the Community Law Center. We're going to close down that crack house
one way or the other. And we'll work just as agressively to close down any other
nesting places. This is our neighborhood and if we don't do what we can, who will?
Sometimes I have been rude or harsh here. In hindsight, I can see where some
of my comments could be taken personally. In some cases they should be, if the shoe
fits, but most of the time I mean no offense to anyone individually, unless I name
them and I'm very clear then. As with Johnnie Cochran. Obviously I think he's beneath
contempt and that's a personal insult. I doubt he cares.
Otherwise, those who take my criticisms personally should try to remember I'm
just doing what I perceive as my job, to help make this neighborhood better in any
way I can and that includes criticism when I think it's deserved. I'm not
into politics. I'm not attacking anyone and I apologize if I've offended. I'm trying
to call attention to the problems, suggest solutions and simply to be a record of
life here on Madison Avenue, a place that's had no attention for a very, very long
Wednesday morning, January 8, almost 5AM: I should have gone to
bed while I was ahead.
There's really something way wrong here. Right now I'd like to wring Johnnie Cochran's
neck. He of the "if the glove don't fit, you must acquit" travesty.
Now he wants to blame the city for the Dawson family murders! Because
we encouraged the Dawson's to report drug activity, we're to blame for what the drug
Check out this morning's Sun, front page below the fold and online at http://www.sunspot.net/bal-te.md.dawson08jan08,0,6116466.story?coll=bal%2Dhome%2Dheadlines
We can't seem to hold the dealers responsible to anything, so suing them for
damages I guess isn't an option. I'm totally outraged at this ploy of Mr. Cochran's.
And worse, he knows, in this city, the jury will agree with him. So, we're to blame
for encouraging people to Believe that drug dealing should not be on every block.
"In a letter sent to O'Malley on Nov. 26, Cochran said city police had failed
to protect the family, but did not mention the campaign. The letter contended that
the city would have done more for the Dawsons if they had been white or middle-class."
I can testify that's not true. The city doesn't do enough for middle class white
folks, either. I know, I am one. But I do believe they try.
So, we're to blame for when people murder each other because we encourage them not
If you can't meet your goals, lower them. What a concept. I should really have tried
that here long ago. Could have been so much happier.
Everyone in this city should be outraged. If they're not just already outraged, which
we have so many reasons to be.
Thank you, Mr. Cochran, for epitomizing the worst of the legal profession and for
perpetuating the warped logic that lets murderers go free, whether they be football
celebrities or drug dealers. Imagine if Cochran were defending the arsonist. "It's
not his fault he killed an entire family as they slept. He couldn't help it. It's
the impossibly high expectations of the city demanding he not sell drugs. That's
what drove him to it."
Just my opinion, Mr. Cochran. Don't be bothered by it. I don't have anything worth
suing me for.
On a similar note, I'm digusted to see the relatives of the dead 15 year old girl
nosing about, looking for money from the city because it's the city's fault she was
abused. "The social services programs failed." They did, but so did the
relatives, first and foremost. If we have to pay them for the social service worker's
oversights, then they should go to jail for not watching over their child.
Don't people understand that when they sue the city, they're suing us, all of us,
each one of us who lives here? They're taking money not from some bottomless source,
but right out of schools and police.
I'm going back to bed.
Wednesday morning, January 8, 3AM: Let there be light.
Just awakened by pounding on the door. Dogs in hysterics. "What is it now,
what story will they have?" I was thinking, as I got on my bathrobe, pepper
spray, phone and pistol.
Looked out the window and saw a police car. Then I saw one of my favorite officers
stepping back to look up. We waved. He came around back to the substation.
"I called about eleven. I knocked on the substation door about midnight. I was
getting worried. Sorry to have awakened you."
You can bet I assured him it was OK to wake me up. The only thing worse than worrying
friends, is not having the friends to worry. I apologized for not hearing the phone.
I had turned it off. Unlike me lately, I'd gone to bed early. I'm going back after
I finish this. Apparently my insomnia has found its cure.
We spoke of my daffy neighbor, whom I hadn't been seen in a while and had asked about.
"I did see her. She's howling at the moon. Looks OK. I asked her to go home."
Having a policeman know your habits and worry about you and your crack crazed neighbor
is wonderful. Talk about community policing.
Delighted to see that BGE contractors working on the street lights. We made dozens
of phone calls since Thursday night when they all failed to come on. Vaughn got irate
with them. "This is not a single street light. It's all the street lights in
a drug market!" The street lights make an amazing difference. They're back on
all along Wilson Street, up our block and over on McCulloh, the very centers of our
drug market, as we kept repeating to the clerks with the city and BGE.
No word on why the new street lights can't be lit yet, but first things first.
I have it on good authority Major Gutberlet will be attending the Community Law Center
meeting on the subject of the crack house next door. This should be an effective
meeting, based on the heavy hitter who'll be there. The whole subject is "how
do we close down the crack house at 1704 Madison Avenue?" Perhaps there's hope
for real progress.
And on that upbeat note, I'm going back to bed with a small, satisfied smile on my
face. There are people out there who care about this neighborhood and me. Things
can get better. Amazing what a few hours of good sleep can do to your mood.
Monday night, January 6th: Quiet day today. The government checks
of the first are spent. Supervision by the SPS guards has been more obvious, too,
quashing the few times I noticed groups of dealers starting to mill, at least near
their building. The new snow and extra cold discourage them sometimes, though nothing
discourages dealing on a weekend after the first. I see the guards out there now,
chatting with a BPD officer.
My meeting with Richard about improving the situation at 1717-1715 and the rest of
the neighborhood went well. Unlike Clarence Weston, the owner of 1704, I believe
Richard's company wants to do the right thing. They participate, at least. I hope
we can follow through and make some progress. I do think Crack Cam Live would
be effective, and a hit. Maybe a new reality show on Fox.
There's an interesting story about the signage in the photo below. The plexi I used
was in the house when we bought it. Saved it, pack rat that I am, thinking I could
find a use for it one day. It used to be in a cabinet built above the shower stall
in what is now the substation restroom just inside the door.
In that use, it served as the bottom of a mini greenhouse where we found three long
fluorescent light tube holders suspended inches above several little seedling flats.
Filled with soil still, they were devoid of any plant material at all. Not even a
root. There were new cabinet doors and hardware, well constructed. There was reflective
film on all the walls to make sure the grow light was intensified. The circuit was
one of the best I've ever found in the house, properly wired with its own dedicated
In its previous use, the sign you see below was used in growing marijuana.
I was reminded of this when I heard someone asking a guy on the stoop of 1704 if
he had the grass yet. I assumed it wasn't blue grass he was talking about.
I have no more objection to marijuana than alcohol but I find this little irony worth
a smile. If one believes a house can have thoughts, I'm sure it never expected to
see such a turnabout in its use. From crack house to police substation.
Sunday midnight, the start of January 6th:
The substation had a new transom sign put in night before last.
The fruits of insomnia. I was expecting to have the neighbors call the police about
the table saw going at 4AM. Then I realized you can't hear it very loud on the street.
Needed to replace the temporary one so I could make it weathertight.
There's snow clinging to the letters today, but otherwise it looks pretty smart,
I think. The signage was donated by FastSigns, downtown on Charles Street. 410.783.1535.
Thank you, Steve. I had the plexiglass and it was easy to apply the vinyl.
Today it earned its title. The substation was a "fixed post." During snow
events, officers are assigned fixed positions around the city to improve response
Individuals make all the difference, don't they? You can't have a worthwhile
organization without worthwhile members. Tonight, security at 1717-1715 Madison was
much more conspicuous. I watched as a uniformed guard rotated his post around the
building at various points. Different staff or different techniques, I don't know.
Whatever, it helped. Most of the night the dealing has been confined to 1704. Even
that's been relatively quiet, what with the snow and it being Sunday, after an exhaustingly
busy weekend for the dealers.
Individual officers make a difference, too. At the end of last month there was a
shift change. The first and second shifts rotate about every month. I have noticed
considerably more patrols, more stops and improved response times around here during
our prime dealing hours now. I suspect this has a lot to do with who's in charge
too, which sergeant. Or perhaps they've been preoccupied with other areas, hopefully
Pennsy and Laurens, which is even worse than our worst.
Monday morning I'm going to meet with Richard, who's with the management company
for Pedestal Gardens, which includes the building across the street at 1715-1717.
Hopefully, we can discuss ways to improve security at his building, hopefully including
new strategies including cameras. He's also going to attend a meeting next week about
community action against 1704, the crack house that plagues us all here.
Sunday morning, 2AM, January 5th: A first for my tenure here: Just
watched someone throw rocks up to the third floor of the window at 1715 Madison.
Same one often used as a lookout post, tenant's cell phone in hand. A few minutes
later, a baggie or what looked like one, came out the window which was closed promptly.
I didn't catch the payment process. Perhaps it was on a tab. That building has been
busy all night. Don't know where the guards are.
I haven't seen them much tonight. At one point I even called their offices to ask
where they were and was told one would be sent right over. From where? I think a
call to the police would have been as or more effective. Response is not as much
their purpose as deterrent. Perhaps they've tried undercover security guarding tonight.
Is there a guard, or isn't there? Most of the dealers assumed the latter.
I know sometimes the guards get to thinking nothing much is happening and so walk
away, not realizing that their presence is supposed to discourage dealing at the
building they're charged with guarding. Like the police officers, I think some figure
if they don't see it, it wasn't happening while they weren't looking. Security guards
are supposed to be bored and conspicuous ... if you ask me. Police officers are much
too conspicuous in those cars and uniforms ... if you ask me.
Most of the guards are well meaning, under paid guys whom I like. However, I have
to take the view that if it isn't working, it's time to change something and try
new approaches until something makes a real, lasting difference.
Another case for well placed cameras.
The street lights are still out. Even up McCulloh, parallel with Madison. That's
over a dozen street lights out for three nights. Some officers this afternoon and
evening are cruising through more often to help, I think.
Vaughn noticed what looked like a check point set up on Laurens off Eutaw midday
yesterday. Officers were asking people cruising through where they lived and what
they were doing at the entrance to our drug market. Seems like a solid, proactive
An officer told me that his sergeant has asked for more attention during church services,
in response to calls. Perhaps someone at the big church on the block finally opened
his eyes to the neighborhood and was embarrassed. It is absurd to see so many God
fearing people cavorting and walking to and from their cars, oblivious to "greens
out, greens out!" and obvious dealing and dealers. I'm convinced many feel it's
a legit occupation forced by circumstances, OK so long as it doesn't happen out where
I live and they leave us alone while we park here once a week.
I've heard a certain shift sergeant doesn't want his officers using the station.
This is the same one I met some time ago who was belligerant, defensive and offensive
all at the same time. "Which one of you said I supported this station. I never
did." I replied "I've never met you, sir, so I'm sure we never said you
supported the station. Besides, what's not to support? The station's here for a break
and you're welcome to use it like the officers under you, just as Major Gutberlet
has authorized." As Julie saw the other day, the officers use the station anyway.
They all think quite poorly of this sergeant, as do I. He's part of the morale problem
at BPD, more concerned with his territory and threatened by change, as are so many
mid level managers.
There's another sergeant the officers think highly of. I'm sure it's no coincidence
he's the one ranking officer who spent time upstairs watching the market the way
we see it every day. And I heard a wonderful endorsement of Major Gutberlet the other
day. "He's on the streets. He's often helped me make an arrest. Once he showed
up well before anyone else when I called for assistance." Frequent readers here
will recall I've had my doubts about the Major at times. Maybe he's just been too
busy doing his job in charge of the Central District to deal personally with our
specific concerns all the time.
I was told that dealing and trouble are "going off the wall" in Reservoir
Hill. I'm sorry to hear that. I know some urban homesteaders up there are working
hard and must be discouraged. Perhaps it's the effect of our efforts here herding
the dealers to new areas, though I think in this case it's just more dealers homesteading
I suspect that if a market tried to root itself in Bolton Hill there'd be serious
city hall action fast. Some of those residents go apoplectic about littering and
car breakins, but are reluctant to turn on their porch lights, preferring to complain
about a lack of streetlamps. "How can such things be allowed inside our borders?"
Other Bolton Hillers do things like bring toilet paper in the pouring rain to a little
police break room on the other side of that border. They're Baltimoreans first as
we all should be, Bolton Hillers second.
Saturday morning, January 4: Just finished listening to WBAL AM
Talk radio. You know, one of those venues where a know-it-all panders to emotions
like hate and defeat. I don't like it at all and figure the only ones who listen
are those incapable of forming their own opinions. Others enjoy the fray.
I wanted to hear the guest, and for the first time ever I called to talk to the listeners
on a program featuring Adam Meister of Techbalt and the concept of young urban pioneers
getting together to colonize an abandoned block. I wanted to counter the several
callers telling him he was looking at life through rose colored glasses and that
nothing could be done to save the city. He is of course, seeing things with the ambition
and confidence of youth. Thank God. If you don't look at it's potential, and focus
only on its reality, there's no use looking at Baltimore.
Naturally, they didn't have time to air but 30 seconds of my comments before it was
off to another guest and a more inflamatory topic. Still, I've heard other jibes
at the city between commercials as I've left it on. The station and its listeners
seem only interested in knocking the city, considering it merely a burden the rest
of the state bears.
Suburbanites are irrelevant to the future of the city. They or their parents have
given up or never consider being part of Baltimore except to play and work. Those
who do look back must justify their abandonment and the problems it's created. When
this radio program mentions Baltimore, it's usually these very people complaining.
The host said the only way he'd come back would be if there were guarantees offered
by the city of safety and better education. I've heard this before. As if anyone
can guarantee a real city as developers do those vanilla, cookie cutter "planned
communities" growing like weeds all over the outlying countryside. Callers cited
crime. Callers complained about Patricia Jessamy. They complained about city bureaucracy.
Only one was a Baltimorean and he was complaining about how long it's taken him trying
to save a block by himself, the very situation Techbalt addresses.
Unless people come to the city to improve the tax base, the voter base, the jury
pool, how can things change? Homeowners "own" a city. Those who will wait
until the city is better before they invest in it create the very problem they use
as an excuse to stay away. No better than those irresponsible homeowners of vacant
houses I bashed yesterday, the ones who wait until others have rebuilt a neighborhood
so they can cash in.
On more mundane topics, please call BGE at 877.778.2222 and the city at 311 to report
the series of street lamp outages on the 1700 block of Madison Avenue and along Wilson
from Eutaw to McCulloh, the center of this crack market. Lots of people complain
about a city street lamp being out on their block. I'm talking about a dozen, leaving
my porch light and floodlamp the only lighting on my side and at the corner for the
past two nights. Another call that would be appreciated is 410.396.1311 on Monday
to ask the office of transportation why this was allowed to go on for so long and
why the many new street lamps we've all just paid for on Madison Avenue are still
waiting to be lit after nearly two months.
One guy was already shouting "greens out" at 9 this morning. I can hear
one of the mothers from next door wandering about, babbling, high while conducting
her own business. I don't hear "greens" right now, or the babble. An officer
just drove through slowly on his was back out from using our restroom.
Friday, January 3, 10pm: Despite several calls, the street lights
are still out, up and down our end of Madison Avenue and Wilson. Dealing has been
busy between bouts of the sprinkles, especially at 1704. When the rain stopped a
bit ago, not less than ten people walked in from all directions to get their goods.
A call to 911 resulted in two squad cars spending a few minutes in front. The dealing
had stopped since the sprinkles began again.
Was delighted early this morning to hear the acting police commissioner's assigned
permanent foot patrols for the first time in ten years. Only two officers in each
district, but it's a start. And he's reassigning administrative officers, not diverting
The news report said he wanted to return the department to "community policing,"
emphasizing service to the community, which I take as going back to getting to know
the beat personally. Sounds exactly like what the Sun spoke of in its editorial September 19th.
While I sympathize with officers being on foot patrol in this wintry weather (maybe
we need more break stations?), there's no doubt to me it is effective. During the
two weekly stints around here we enjoyed foot officers, I noticed a substantial reduction
in street activity. I recall a couple officers taking a restroom break in the station
joking about how surprised dealers are when they suddenly appear, without the warning
a patrol car announces long before it arrives. Two of those officers on foot conducted
the effective mini
sting on 1704 on the evening of November 8. It was because
they were getting to know the beat and took advantage of a vantage point we'd offered
since day one.
I have a suggestion. Surprised? The old police leadership seemed all about public
relations and manipulating statistics, not unlike city hall itself. Perhaps if the
emphasis now is going to be community policing, we don't need staff assigned to the
"Community Relations" department for each district. It seems their only
function is to deflect and absorb citizen complaints so they don't reach those in
charge. Rather than assigning officers to rehash holiday safety precautions and explain why the police can't do more
at community association meetings, these officers would
better be deployed on the streets themselves, doing police work. They're out of touch
with what's happening in specific areas. How could they not be? They don't walk the
I'd far rather have the officer who knows me and my street, the good from the bad
neighbors, crack houses from safe houses, meet with our neighborhood groups. We could
talk about the real problems, naming suspects and problem addresses, trading information
... being part of the same team.
Tomorrow morning Adam Meister, chief instigator and rabble rouser for the Techbalt concept,
will be on WBAL radio, 1090 AM, at 8:10. I believe the concept of banding together
other like minded people to take over an abandoned block together is a great. I just
wish there was more cooperation from city hall for the idea.
Rather than only pushing massive, expensive, high overhead solutions like Project
5000 that grab headlines, we should put in place means for individuals and small
groups to take over the abandoned homes and vacant lots that plague our city. Whole
neighborhoods could be built with a real sense of community this way. There are plenty
of people who would be glad to live in the city if they could be safe and the process
of buying a vacant house wasn't a bureaucratic nightmare. These people would bring
their own financing and build their own sweat equity, too, not burden a town that
can't pay its officers or teachers. If you're willing to take responsibility for
a vacant house or lot, the city should find ways to give it to you, free. Perhaps
a renewal of the $1 house program. Anything to return these places of death and decay
back to life.
People who leave houses abandoned for too long should forfeit their rights. I would
say this should include those who sit on houses while they deteriorate, hoping to
ride the coattails of those with the guts and ambition to restore the neighborhood
around them. This land speculation especially hampers the return of once great neighborhoods
like Reservoir Hill. It's worse for the city than the flipping fraud.
Several people have applauded the idea of a webcam and surveillance. I'd sure like
to put video of it back to the substation. The officers could comfortably wait and
watch. As soon as they see the probable cause they need, they could radio their colleagues
for the bust. Even when officers weren't there, the dealers would be worried. Sounds
perfect. Alas, it's a matter of money. Just keeping up with this house has been a
burden, let alone renovating it. One lesson I've learned that should be of interest
to Techbalters and others interesting in rehabbing: you need guts, hard work and
lots of money. Add to it a neighborhood that works against you and your challenges
are more than doubled.
Thursday, January 2, 11:30pm: As tired as I am of the cold rain,
and we're only a week or so into winter, it's a blessing tonight. The streetlamps
have gone out at the corner between Wilson to McCulloh and even the one in front
of our house.
Now it's pitch black where these dealers lurk, here shown in a night picture when
the street light is working. I only see one possible dealer there right now. It's
almost freezing and there's light rain blowing around. You can bet I've called to
report it and told the Central District duty sergeant about it. Neither rain nor
snow, nor gloom of night discourage these guys from their rounds, especially near
the first of the month.
Fortunately, the street lights in the back alley and our 250w flood are still going
or I'd be freaking. I remember one night two summers ago when BGE advised us we were
going to be without power for a few hours. It was a long few hours.
Maybe the crews will take the time to light the new street lamps installed over the
fall along Madison. I was told there was an expensive study which determined the
avenue above the elementary school needed more street lamps to discourage dealing
and prostitution. Good thinking. Over three months they installed three new ones
on our block alone. They've been in for nearly two months. They have yet to be lit.
I was thinking of running an extension cord.
Thursday, January 2, 8:30pm: Dealing has been steady all afternoon.
A couple of the officers have rousted them a few times. Lasts about three minutes.
A reporter is coming on Saturday night. No doubt it'll be a busy night's dealing.
The government checks are coming out. Might be another story about our efforts. I
don't know about the value of it. Sometimes I think the recognition we got from the
dealers after the big story in the paper wasn't a good thing.
I'm hoping to get together with the management of the Pedestal Gardens building at
1715 to put together a camera surveillance system. If properly designed, using durable
fakes to draw the fire, so to speak, and inconspicuous real ones, I think it could
last and be a huge deterrent.
Mr. Douglas of the funeral home around the corner has found his system does help
discourage them. Especially the camera nearest the elementary school. He reports
that one disturbed them so much one day a kid was paid to bounce his basketball into
it until it was broken. Ours was knocked out of the window by rocks last summer while
I was working in the substation. I clearly recall watching the dealer drive through
the alley real slow to make sure I wasn't in front to see them.
Police management doesn't seem to like private surveillance cameras any more than
the dealers. Mr. Douglas has offered his camera's vantage point, covering four angles.
The drug squad apparently can't use private surveillance tapes. And, like my third
floor window, doesn't want to see the problems and players for themselves from our
vantage points. The only ones who've taken us up on it have been a few of our diligent
beat officers, looking to make a difference.
Still, the dealers don't like cameras. I think they'd like it even less if we broadcast
it on the web. Something I'm hoping we can afford to do. A sergeant was very disturbed
by Mr. Douglas offering his tapes to ABC's Nightline news magazine. Imagine
if we put out a web address, "Baltimore's Crack Cam Live."
Could backfire. For some, a live webcam would be like a commercial. I've often thought
I should mount a red neon blinking light on 1704 so people know where to go. Maybe
a huge searchlight. I don't like being awakened at 3AM by people searching for a
high, too confused to understand they're one door off. This happened again last night.
"No, she does not live here. No, I'm sure. You want next door." They shuffle
next door in a crazed daze, only to come out again minutes later with a smile.
It still amazes me when I realize that of two dozen people on the street in this
block a bit ago, probably most were involved in buying or selling or both. Often
there are more than a dozen cars out front, too, some idling. Only four belong to
homes on this block. The culture of crack here is so routine, so blatant and matter
The Community Law Center is organizing a meeting this month about the problem buildings
on this block. They have been very effective with legal action against crack houses
and slums in town, including an unusually conspicuous one a block up the street where
it's incredibly nicer, if you overlook the prostitutes milling in the shadows. Perhaps
an alliance can be put together to buy the tax lien next door and force the slumlord (who also happens to work for the city) out along with his dealing tenants.
At the suggestion of readers, we're going to accept donations via PayPal. This will
be the first time we've accepted cash donations, but several have wanted to help
who can't provide specific things. It would help too with things like the donations
for the paving fund so we can keep better track of the balance. I don't think it'll
raise a lot of money given the economy, but frankly we could use the help. Donations
of supplies are greatly appreciated, but irregular, leaving us shopping often. And
heating the station is costing at least $100 extra a month. Things like "Baltimore's
Crack Cam Live" could be costly, too.
PayPal will allow us to accept payments via credit card or checking account. Signing
on is free and easy. All donations will be used directly to support the substation.
They will not be tax deductible, as we have not yet formed a qualifying organization.
We don't want to charge the officers for coffee and snacks and such. They don't make
enough money. And they seem to appreciate this little oasis so much, especially on
cold wet nights like this. And we will appreciate your making it easier for us to
convey this thanks.
Have you read about their starting salaries? Even with the recent raise, it's pretty
bad. And I will never understand why anyone would choose to do it, which is why I
understand Baltimore being a training ground for other departments, often losing
the best of our foot soldiers. The most important things the government can provide
are safety and education. And we're not doing either very well in Baltimore.
While writing this, things have slowed outside. Only because of the cold and icy
sprinkles. Still, anyone can wander into the building next door and buy whatever
they want 24/7. The Pedestal building, across the street at 1715, isn't contributing
to the problem so much tonight. Perhaps because the private security people are doing
their jobs. I've seen them out and about.
New Year's Day, 2003:
Watched the fireworks over the harbor from the roof. Surprisingly good view. Fortunately,
there were no fireworks around here as there were July 4 when the houses on Eutaw
caught the Roman candles.
I admit it. I've spent most of the day nursing a hangover. For someone with a horrible
headache, I'm in a surprisingly good mood. I'm glad the holidays are behind us. Time
to get back to work.
Thanks to those many who've written to ask me to keep up the site. I have to admit
that my achy back has not helped my mood these past few weeks. Sometimes I think
I should threaten to give up more often. Usually when I do good things happen that
keep me from it.
The BPD had a shift change Sunday. The first and second shifts rotate every 28 days.
Graveyard is always the same staff. All of a sudden I noticed more aggressive policing
around here. A neighbor said the same thing. On Sunday afternoon I noticed an officer
talking with loiterers at 1704 on two different occasions. Spoke to an officer later
who told me they always complain that it's their right to sit on the stoop. "It
is. But it is not their right to sell crack."
I worry about giving up our civil rights in the name of a war on terror. I do not
worry about curtailing people's rights to loiter at street corners and doorways especially
when they don't live there. I used to have a hard time being down on the people next
door hanging out on their stoop in the summer. Their tiny, filthy apartments have
no circulation. Still, almost always when they're on the stoop next door, they're
selling. I watch it all the time.
Seems like there should be an ordinance about loitering, especially in well known
drug markets like this. Perhaps that's something our city council could do, rather
than trying to direct foreign policy or dictate a happy face for writers whose depictions
of Baltimore are too accurate. If I were a member of the city council, I'd be embarrassed
All this rain has found every single leak in the main house. Again, the substation
is the nicest room here. The roof over it was completely rebuilt summer before last.
I suspect our drought is over. The earth has its cycles, doesn't it? Just got to
have patience and perseverance. I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere.
Julie came by with a big bag of toilet paper. One less thing on my shopping list.
I do so appreciate such practical donations. Her timing was good. Three officers
were having Chinese take out, trying to dry off. I hope it was gratifying for her
to see them. I have the good fortune of seeing the smiles and hearing the thank yous
As hard as it is to believe, while the officers were having their suppers, I watched
two cars pull up to buy at 1704. I don't disturb the officers when they're taking
a break anymore. Not for anything so commonplace as a crack deal. When these officers
leave, they'll cruise past 1704 and if someone's being obvious, they'll stop. Just
their presence interrupts it, if only for a moment.
So, I guess I'm not ready to retire my Internet soap box yet. Thanks again for reading
and asking me to stick with it. I hope 2003 is good to you and yours. Maybe this
year will be the one when things change on Madison Avenue. We can hope.
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