Journal Entries for January 14 through 31st, 2003
click here for archive index
Thursday, 8PM, January 30th: Dealing and restocking continue at 1704, of course. I've emailed a photo of the car and plate of the suspected main distributor who visits regularly each afternoon and night to restock the market there and pick up his cash. At least two officers and two of the SPS guards know the car, too. I'm sure business will be busy tonight. It always ramps up on Thursday and stays brisk through the weekend, most especially near the first of the month when checks come out. Would be a good weekend to do a surveillance operation and sting.
Perhaps that would be a good project for the state police when they are employed in the city finally. There was an article in today's Sun about that. Heck, I'm for bringing in the National Guard. Drug terrorists next door are every bit the scourge as political terrorists from abroad.
The SPS guards recently got their commissions from the Baltimore Police Department. They are now sworn officers with arrest powers just like those of the BPD officers, just limited to the grounds in their charge at 1717-1715 and the rest of Pedestal Gardens, but extending beyond and between the properties, too. They've already made arrests and are putting together evidence to make more. These commissioned officers can and have made a big difference here in years past at no additional cost to taxpayers. This is positive news, but the SPS guys cannot do it alone. The crack house must be closed.
While I was talking to their sergeant in the station over lunch, I got a call.
It was one of the most profoundly moving moments of my life.
A woman called me from her work as a hospital secretary to thank us for our efforts. The City Paper article and the website hit close to home.
One day she decided to follow her son and they ended up here, where he bought the heroin to which he's addicted. Apparently in her neighborhood in Hampden, you can pay someone $5 who operates a shuttle for buyers to our market here at Wilson Street and Madison Avenue. She doesn't remember exactly which building. She didn't want to be seen. But she remembers the corner well.
"I've spent most of the day reading and rereading the article and your website."
Her son is now in a halfway house in East Baltimore. He's 36, been in and out of jail and had many troubles. He's not happy in treatment. Mother still has hope, but from the tears that trembled in her voice we both knew not to expect miracles, though that won't stop either of us from praying for them.
A mother's voice told us today "thank you." To be a part of her hope and prayers is ... something I cannot put into words.
Officer Ski is coming by again tonight to get more Dawson Signs. "I had a stack of Dawson Signs and they went in minutes, yes minutes ..." We've printed him 100 more.
Thursday, 1AM, January 30th: A long day. So many calls and emails from the article. Tomorrow I'm meeting with reporters for the Sun and Fox45. Not articles about us, they just want our input on other stories, issues.
An officer from the Western District just left. He came to pick up some copies of the Dawson sign for his neighborhood. He's a fellow Baltimorean. He sent me an email ...
"Months ago I read the article about your place in the SUN, today I read once again about u in the City Paper. I knew the Dawsons and played for a brief time some basketball with the kids when Mrs. Dawson Flagged me down once. I admire the stand you're taking and wish from thebottom of my heart that that area can be cleaned up for u.
... Its a long haul but I still get ready for work and give it my best, I thank you for the stand u take and wish u both the best, just be safe. your friend, Ski"
The article in the City Paper described my ups and downs well, the roller coaster of emotions. Meeting him was the nicest part of a day filled with encouragement and well wishes. I was genuinely touched by this officer's dedication and enthusiasm. He takes the murder of the Dawson family personally, as we all should. He is looking to join the drug task force that has four officers laid up, the ones shot during the raid recently. The ones whose assailant was let go by the State's Attorney.
He's either crazy or he really is a true Believer. Or is it both?
I'll say it again. Providing a small respite to our officers is a privilege. It is enormously gratifying for us to see them use the room, knowing that it is provided and maintained by citizens who care about them. They need all the encouragement they can get.
On to the mundane aspects of running a police substation: Its use is now being compromised by a glacier we have in the alley.
This is one of the SPS guards cars. He had to be pulled out tonight. Thank goodness it wasn't an officer on an emergency call. I'm telling them all to drive in and out downstream. In places now it's a foot thick, constantly being undermined by the steady flow from the leak in the yard of the house across the alley from Payne Church. We've called and called since it broke during the first hard frosts in early November. This same leak ran for six months through the summer year before last. I don't know who pays the water bill ... or doesn't. The DPW fixed this once before, but with tenants who don't care and landlords who care even less, it continues to run. Officers can't get the tenant to even answer the door.
It's a problem, but it cuts down on suspicious foot traffic through the alley and makes life tough for the four legged rats, too. Another complication: the garbage people aren't picking up my trash, perhaps understandably concerned about slipping on the ice. Or perhaps Clarence Weston has told them to skip us in retaliation. <g> With the amount of trash the substation creates in fast food wrappers, towels and cups, this could become a problem for us real soon.
And there are the kids going to and from Eutaw Marshburn Elementary. They seem to be enjoying the ice skating ... until one of them slips and breaks something.
If you can, please call DPW at 410.396.7870 and ask them to expedite this repair. I don't think they understand what's happening here. I realize there are over 400 water main breaks in the city, but there must be some of lower priority that haven't been running for nearly three months.
This morning I met a site scout for The Wire. They took some pictures. The directors are coming out to look the house over. They need an interior to serve as a shooting gallery. You can't get much more genuine than this former crackhouse, unless you go next door to the current one. I don't think they'd be very cooperative there, though. I'm embarrassed to admit parts of this house still look like a bombed out crack house. Odd timing, his visit had nothing to do with the City Paper article or the website. He didn't know about either. He had been referred by Carlton Douglas of the funeral home around the corner, which is being used as a set, too.
Wednesday morning early, January 29th: The City Paper is out. We feature prominently in an article about people who believe in the city. I wonder how the neighborhood will react. The front page article in the Sun last September certainly made us well known on the block, as if we hadn't been noticed before. I'm hoping the attention now will help force out the crack house at 1704 and bring some more police work against the corner market.
Yesterday, we took a letter to the new commissioner. Attached was a key to the substation and the following.
TO: Commissoner Designate Clark
RE: police break room at 1708 Madison Avenue, rear
January 28 , 2003
Welcome to our city. We have great confidence in our mayor's choice and high hopes and expectations for you.
We want you to know so many of us will do whatver we can to help.
Attached is a key to a little break room neighbors put together for the use of our officers here in the Central District. It's a secure, clean restroom and a place to have a lunch break in an area where the officers presence is sorely needed.
If you'd like to know more about the "substation" and our little part of the city, please visit rebuildingmadison.info.
Please feel free to drop by for coffee. We have an open air crack market on top of an elementary school we'd like to show you while you're here, too.
Thank you for accepting the challenge that is Baltimore.
We signed it and added the names of all those who've contributed to the substation effort. To say we have high hopes for Mr. Clark is an understatement. Many of us stake our lives on his success.
Tuesday morning, about midnight, January 28: The new redistricting plan is out. Both the mayor and the current council members use the word "parochial" as if that was a criticism. I just looked up the word on Webster. I like the definition as it would apply to us: "confined or restricted as if within the borders of a parish, limited in range or scope (as to a narrow area or region) ."
The purpose of a locally elected councilperson is to be responsbible locally. Councilpersons should be all about local concerns, and individual responsibility. I'm tired of councilpersons who find it easy to ignore complaints and concerns, pretending they aren't individually responsible. One of our city councilpersons lives two blocks from the second worst open air drug market in the central district. Perhaps if he(she) actually could be held individually responsible?
Too much in this city we have representatives not individually responsible, passing on the blame to others. For God's sake, it's a small city, ever dwindling as we fiddle our fingers. I think we could do with about a handful of councilpersons who were proactive, rather than a tribe of politicians who do nothing.
Monday afternoon, January 27: It was busy just before and then after the game. Lots of dealing at the corner and out of 1704 where it's warm and there are no security officers as across the street. Nothing unusual there, sorry to say.
Tomorrow there'll be a new look for this site. Hopefully an improvement. Should make it faster loading and easier to read for new and returning visitors. I've updated the history of the house and the substation project to help those new to the site understand it better. The layout should allow for more creativity too, when I have time. I have resisted going to "blogging" software used on so many personal sites dedicated to what people ate or what movie they saw that day. I'm too old to be a blogger. I prefer the flexibility of old fashioned HTML ... at least for now.
Your comments on the new layout will be appreciated, including if you just happen to spot typos or something that doesn't look right in your browser. As always, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Super Bowl Sunday, noon, January 26: Between the impending snow and the game, I don't expect it will be a busy night. Or maybe it will. You can never tell.
The street is packed with church goers attending services at Payne AME. It still amazes me these people are not indignant about the dealers. I watch them go to and from their sanctuary, oblivious to the deals and the slingers yelling "greens, greens, greens." They own the mostly vacant building at the corner of Wilson and Madison and their church at the other end of the block. The largest property owners here. But they seem to suffer from that attitude of acceptance the mayor speaks of.
Went down to make some coffee in the station this morning. Ran into Kurt, a sergeant with the SPS security service. He and an officer pursued a dealer from the 1715 building over to 1704 this morning. Plastic baggies, crack vials and stubbed out marijuana "blunts" litter the common area there. An arrest was made. Juanita, arrested just two weeks ago for dealing, is serving as lookout for the other dealers now. Perhaps she's afraid of being arrested again for selling.
Found a passel of popcorn, cookies, burritos, paper towels and other supplies left by Ken, our neighbor at Spicer's Run. He contributes so regularly he has his own key. Two other substation supporters have brought supplies this week, too. Carl and Peggy of Roland Park and Jefferson, the photographer hoping to catch a good shot of some officers for the upcoming story in City Paper. It helps the budget not to have buy all the stuff ourselves, especially with the high utility bill from keeping those rooms comfortable 24/7 in this cold.
And I know it means something to the officers that so many people take such an interest. The substation is truly a community effort. Not government, not community associations, not church, just neighbors from near and far trying to do something to support our police in a place they need all the help they can get.
Saturday noon, January 25: Feels downright warm today at 30 degrees. Beats 10.
Dealing last night was steady, but not as conspicuous. An officer I spoke with in the substation early this morning said it had been a busy night, but nothing particularly newsworthy. Quite a bit happening out of 1704 still. It will be such a relief to have that house closed down finally.
Woke this morning about 7 to a very loud domestic argument in the parking lot of 1715. Sounded like it might come to violence so I called 911. They must have realized someone would call because they broke it up and went their separate ways shortly after I hung up. I called 911 back to report it was over. The operator answered, but was busy laughing and finishing a joke with her colleague. I yelled into the phone and finally got her attention. "Oh! [long pause] 911, what is the emergency?" I said "never mind, I wanted to report the matter at 1715 Madison was over, but you're too busy with your fun" and hung up. I'm glad I wasn't reporting something important when the ten seconds she wasted might have been critical. I suppose it's tough to always keep in mind every call you answer might be the difference between life and death.
The officers are the like the rest of us, surprised and curious about the new police chief. I had hoped for McEntee. I liked his comments about community policing and his immediate move to pull officers out of administrative posts and put more on the street, including foot patrols. However, the new man says drug markets will be his focus. We have a stubborn one to challenge him, when he's ready.
In comments yesterday, the Mayor mentioned the culture in Baltimore that accepts dealing. That is a large part of the problem. Shooting people over drug turf is not an acceptable business. Having markets so well known that people drive in from the burbs knowing where to go should be an embarrassment, not commonplace. He also spoke of crime being reduced 30%. Sounds good, but I haven't seen it here. The Dawson's didn't see it. Nor do the many residents who don't even bother to report crime, there's just so much.
I hope the new chief is more concerned about real preventive efforts and the areas where drugs are rampant than statistics and photo ops. I also hope he doesn't begin sending out his resume about the same time he moves into his office, as the last one seems to have.
I'm still fuming over Norris using us as a stepping stone. Apparently he really angered the Mayor too, punctuated by trumping the mayor's announcement of Clark. Frankly, I would not have chosen Clark if only because Norris wanted him. I wonder if Norris will want to steal him from the city as he has at least two other good men.
A reporter with City Paper has been working on a piece about our area and the station. She's met some officers lunching in the substation, talked to them about the area dealing and their work and met two of our substation supporters bringing snacks. Her photographer's had trouble catching officers in the station. Their visits are impossible to predict. When they're busy, officers don't get breaks at all. Sometimes it's only so long as to use the toilet. We're glad to provide the convenience, of course. That's what it's there for.
The reporter emailed me about her article. "I hope it does you some good and shines some light on your corner of the city." Hopefully, it'll be constructive to have the attention. This block has long been ignored. I sense it's time has come for real improvement. The article comes out Wednesday.
No photos of Vaughn or me this time, as they were in the Sun piece last summer. I wasn't happy with certain people here recognizing us as those troublesome do gooders. The slingers come from elsewhere and when there's a staff change, they don't always get filled in on who we are. Sometimes, we're still mistaken for customers.
Tuesday noon, January 21: Not much to report today. It's cold. Still snowing lightly. I watched as one of the SPS guards and an officer were talking at the corner, the officer appeared to be writing up a report. I figure they were rousting the dealers who are always hanging out there, regardless of the weather.
Just returned from helping a neighbor with some burst pipes. Lots of that happening lately. The DPW is busy with many city pipes too. The one in our alley continues to run full bore again, as it has for weeks. I don't know who pays that water bill.
Juanita is back home. Saw her talking to the man who lives across the street, the one I suspect warehouses crack. They talked in front of our house, occasionally looking at my door and window, perhaps wondering if I was watching or listening. I'm not surprised she's out so quick. I wonder if they let her out ROR or if a local dealer bailed her out to keep making money off her.
We exchanged affable hellos a moment ago from her steps as I was out with the dogs. She looks terrible. Like a broken woman. Her voice is weak, her eyes tired. Central booking is a horrid place. Though she deals, she's a victim of crack, and a pawn of those here who make money on other's misery. I wish she could get help, not jail. I don't understand those who can't tell the difference between the criminals and the victims. I guess they don't live among both as we do here.
Watched yesterday as kids with cabin fever were playing across the street. No school being MLK day.
The SPS guard was chatting with these girls for a bit. Perhaps about the construction still proceeding even in this bitter cold. I wonder how many responsible male figures these kids see, at least ones working legit jobs for a living. So many fatherless households. When I walked across the street later I passed this bunch of kids playing basketball using a milk crate for a hoop. Kids are kids, wherever they live.
The little girl of about 8 in the pink parka said hi, asked me about the dogs. I said they were inside, warm. They don't like the cold having such short fur. She suggested sweaters for them. I smiled at the thought of my scary watch dogs all decked out in coordinating sweaters. Just how intimidating can a dog in a sweater be?
The kids and the school are bright spots in the neighborhood. I'm reminded of two years ago. While I was in the basement working on pipes, I heard loud booms resounding through the foundation. My first thought was we got real problems when dealers have heavy artillery. Turned out to be the school marching band practicing. Big drums. The sound of kids practicing band or just laughing and playing is the right sound for a neighborhood, not "greens, greens, greens out!"
Sunday, just after midnight, January 19: Perhaps a case of mistaken identity.
Seems I was wrong about Juanita* being the one dealing at 4 yesterday morning. Sure looked like her, but she was likely still in jail.
Sergeant Bland and her drug task force did a covert surveillance last night and observed a woman dealing out of 1704 near midnight. When they followed her to her apartment in the ground floor rear, they interrupted her in the process of shooting up heroin between her toes. She was arrested. Cash and drugs were found.
The children weren't in the apartment. I did see them today though. They looked to be in good spirits and were bundled up heavily. They played with the dogs a bit through the fence. One told me they slept in their jackets and were OK in the cold. Perhaps they're staying with their other relative in the house, perhaps the one I thought was Juanita last night.
Major Gutberlet left me an email last night asking me to call. We spoke an hour ago. He wanted to tell me about this arrest and to assure me that he and the State's Attorney's office were going to prosecute crimes out of 1704 at the highest priority. He's going to relay the report number to the CLC for their use in the drug nuisance suit "so maybe Charlie Duff and Midtown can get [that property.]" He mentioned the huge tax and fine lien and I reminded him this slumlord is a city employee. I think that must bother him, being a city employee himself.
He said he was by the substation last night, keeping an eye on things, and liked what we did with the sign over the door. He asked me to be sure to call if we need him and thanked us for our efforts. I thanked him as well.
You can bet I'm happy at this attention to our crack house. All in all, it's been a good week. Two good meetings, a drug task force action and this reassurance from the Central District's top brass. Not bad.
Today, Ken of Spicer's Run and Jonna of Bolton Hill dropped supplies off. Both got to meet officers using the substation. I like when that happens. Tomorrow Ken is speaking to the reporter from City Paper working on a piece about our area.
It's fairly quiet outside just now. Only a couple guys milling at the corner. I think I might actually get some sleep tonight.
*Often names used on this site are fictitious to avoid compromising prosecution of the guilty and the safety of the innocent.
Saturday 4:16AM, January 18: Woke up with that vague feeling something was amiss.
The dogs were snoring next to me, usually a good sign. Didn't hear anything odd at first. As I got up to look out the window, I heard tires squeal as a car turned around on Wilson to come up and park in front of 1704 Madison. Four people were inside.
Out came the woman I know as a Juanita, with a man I don't know, to speak to the driver. She's the same woman who lives with three children and her elderly father in the back apartment. According to Vaughn, she's mother to two and grandmother to the smallest who's about two years old.
Anyway, I see them all chat for a moment and the sedan drives across the street. "How many did he want?" she says quite loudly as walks with the man across the street to the alley door of 1715 Madison. The car waits until she comes back out, without the man. She hands them the drugs and drives off.
Juanita then walks down toward Laurens, having a loud, one sided conversation with or without someone who might be up the street.
I called 911 with little enthusiasm. The operator, equally apathetic, takes the information. We both know we're wasting our breath. In the last half hour since I called, no BPD have come. They usually do drive through. Perhaps it's a busy night elsewhere.
While I'm describing what's just happened, a Baltimore Fire Department paramedic ambulance pulls up.
I went up to get a view of what was going on to see them go into 1704 for a bit and then return to drive away. We have the stats on police reports, but I wonder how many times the paramedics have responded there and across the street. At least a few times a week it seems.
It turned into a busy afternoon and evening at the corner, regardless of the cold, perhaps because of the full moon. Often I heard a strident, loud "greens out!" Around school closing the Foxtrot helicopter circled overhead for a while, discouraging them. It visited again once or twice later, the last I saw about 1AM just after I'd turned in. The searchlight brought blinding brightness to my bedroom window for an instant. I pondered getting back up, but rationalized yet again I was safer precisely because the helicopter was up there. It's not the blue lights or the helicopter that give cause for worry, it's when there's quiet with no help around.
This afternoon was one of those I felt a prisoner in this house. Not because I was afraid for myself, but because I was afraid of what might happen when I leave. Too many dealers and their minions around to watch me leave. I postponed work I have in Bolton Hill until today when Vaughn when will be in the house doing laundry. I always worry when the house is alone. I worry less about any effective burglary as I do about retaliation against the house or the roommates I leave in charge, one of whom just sputtered a jowly sigh, suggesting I come back to bed ...
The mother from 1704 has wandered back to her family. The street is empty and still. It's 11 degrees. It's a very cold night in more ways than one.
As cold as it is for me, I wonder again just now about the three children who live next door in that apartment at 1704 where the floor is lined with dirty mattresses and the building has no heat. I wonder how they're staying warm as I watch the trash bag that passes for a window there bat back and forth in the frigid breeze. I know that the housing inspector has passed on his concerns to the proper authorities. I hope they can help. Everyone in that house needs help. Some aren't free to make their own choices.
Friday morning, January 17: Had a lunch meeting yesterday at ESPN Sports bar at the Inner Harbor. I'd never been. Not much for theme bars. I'm neither young enough or a sports fan. The whizbang video feeds everywhere were impressive. The food was run of the mill chain fodder. The meeting was very good.
Two good meetings about helping this block in the same week.
Charles Durnin and Richard White of IRM, the company managing the Section 8 housing across the street and all of the Pedestal Gardens properties here, wanted to bring me up to speed on developments about the future of 1717-1715 Madison.
The owners of the two apartment houses damaged by fireworks on July 4 and their self appointed leader who lives on that same side of 1717-1715 have wanted to use that vandalism to pressure HUD and the owners of that building to sell out to a commercial interest, like the Spicer's Run developer. They supposedly would knock down the building and put in more Spicer's Run. The have said all along they have a prospective buyer, yet they have not produced a concrete offer. I believe they want to create as much trouble over as long a period as they can for management there, hoping they'll walk away and let the private developer have the property for next to nothing, leaving HUD (taxpayers) to foot the bill.
These matters were discussed over many entries here during the Fall of last year.
What private individuals do with their own property is their own business, so long as they are responsible about managing it. Management at 1717-1715 is trying, spending a fortune on armed security guards who make a big difference during their shifts. 1704 is quite the opposite.
However, I am vehemently opposed to giving this property to private developers at taxpayer expense so they can profit and a few can have their property values improved. If any forgiveness of debt or government money is to be used to transfer this property, I want that transfer to be to a public service use, like housing moms and their children.
Unlike some, I do not want to remake this neighborhood into a planned suburban-like community where everyone is of the same socioeconomic class and the residents harbor the delusion that since they've pushed the problems of drug abuse away, they must no longer exist. I want to push the dealing away, not the victims.
Well, I'm definitely soapboxing now, aren't I?
Anyway, this meeting was good. I was happy to be kept in the loop. I was informed there is to be a meeting at HUD to follow up on progress at the property on January 30. It's unclear yet whether this is to be a public meeting. If it is, I hope to bring an alternative proposal for future use of the property that does not include enriching some at the expense of taxpayers. And I will also be there to testify to the efforts management is making at 1717-1715.
Another good outcome of the meeting was authorization to put together a camera surveillance system for the building and the area, possibly including monitoring from the substation. Can you imagine the mini stings that could be conducted with just one officer back there, directing his colleagues? I see this as another example of management trying to help their residents and neighbors. I have no doubt the right system would be effective.
And I was advised that a larger dumpster is to be located for the site. Mr. Durnin had been watching the building Tuesday night and noticed the current dumpster was overflowing. Unfortunately, that's often because of non residents, but still we appreciate the effort.
I am pleased to see the construction happening across the street, but amused to see glued waferboard, stapled and vinyl construction on the back end of a once proud mini mansion. The fire seems to have given the owner a nice opportunity to add substantial rentable space. The buildings burned were not private homes, as some would have the public believe, merely formerly grand homes now chopped into tenant warehouses. I gather the authorities charged with historic preservation in Bolton Hill are not concerned about bastardization on this side. After all, if they get their way, these homes would back to more modern construction, all the low income housing and the elementary school would disappear, covered over with homes indistinguishable from suburban developments, like Spenceola Farms in Bel Air.
Which reminds me, appropriately at this time when we remember MLK. For a year on arriving in the area, I lived just outside Bel Air, in a middle class, planned manufactured tract of homes called Spenceola Farms or some such equally bland, vanilla name. I hadn't realized it was the northern capitol of white flight in Maryland until one MLK day I stopped in downtown Bel Air to get a haircut. On taking my seat, clippers humming in my ear, I remarked how surprised I was to find a barber open on a Monday and a national holiday at that.
The reply was something like "What holiday? Oh, that ***tard. Why do those people get a special holiday?"
That opened my eyes. Not long after I took a place in the city, and then I found this old house. I thought I'd gotten away from such people. No. Some of them live across the street. I'm still amazed at those who would try to fix Baltimore's problems by recreating suburbia here.
Don't get me wrong. New developments like Spicer's Run bring new blood to the city. Many are young, first time homeowners starting families, making the ultimate investment here. It's just a waste when we seek to recreate suburbia at the expense of our diversity and of older, useable housing that just needs responsible attention.
It's lunchtime in the substation. Two squad cars have pulled in. It's a quiet day so far, I'm told. Always glad to hear that. And always happy to hear laughter and comraderie among the officers sharing a break together, even if it's for only ten minutes before they run off to a call.
Wednesday afternoon, January 15: It's early yet, so the dealers aren't all over the corner right now. Just one, preparing for the closing school bell that heralds the start of another market session. The bitter cold has helped. I have seen them walk in and out of 1704, where they have a warm reception. One of the SPS guards tells me he's watching the dealing out of upstairs at 1700 too. I'll bet that will be the next problem once 1704 is fixed. The other buildings on our block are properly supervised.
This same guard left me a note in the "thought you might like to know department." He said they'd arrested two dealers working together with BPD and a detective and got drugs and cash. Good work.
This afternoon I've noticed different officers, likely part of the drug task force, cuising through. Just a bit ago they drove down and then reversed fast to see what someone was up to.
Some very hearty tradesmen are hanging vinyl siding on a rebuilt addition on the back of Mr. Stone's apartment house. This is the one on Eutaw that was burned by fireworks on July 4. Seeing the condemned signs on it these many months was an unpleasant reminder of that horrible vandalism. Good to see the reconstruction.
The night of that fire, I met a young BPD officer, Don Slimmer. Officer Slimmer is being reassigned to another sector, for reasons unknown to me. I'm sorry to see him go. He knows the good and the bad and just his being on duty discouraged dealers who knew he would ask them to move on when they loiter at our corner at 2AM. He keeps an eye on us. He's a fine example of a cop who knows his beat. It's a shame to waste his knowledge and experience here and up in Reservoir Hill where they need officers like him too, to fight the increasing dealing going on there. I don't know the complexities of staffing a police department, but I've emailed the Major, asking that this transfer be reconsidered. I know I shouldn't be so selfish. I know several good officers here and perhaps they need him more where he's being assigned.
Twice this morning I've heard the crash of a bottle against the side of the house. both partly full malt liquor bottles. Stale beer I think, and hope, though that's not as bad as the human fecal matter thrown at our door one night. The glass is real bothersome to clean up and a problem when you've got dogs. They seem to be coming from the back and front of 1704. Could it be someone there is following the news here?
Wednesday morning, January 15: Yesterday was one of the best days in this block's history. Right up there with the grand opening party when so many neighbors from near and far came together with all those kids to celebrate a step toward bringing back this block.
Yesterday's event was the meeting at Community Law Center about closing down our drug market and specifically about forcing change at 1704, the crack house slum I've so often ranted about.
The conference room was full to capacity with lawyers for the CLC, the State's Attorney's office and City Department of Housing along with Richard White, whose firm manages the Section 8 housing across the street 1717-1715, Charlie Duff with Midtown, Kimyetta Meekins with Druid Heights Community Association, Vaughn and me.
So much was discussed in the two hour meeting. On February 7, Mr. Weston, owner of 1704, has his first appearance in court to face charges of contempt for his failure to abide by agreements to fix the squalor at 1704. Mr. Halvorsen is prosecuting him for the city and told us that recently they've had some success at real penalties, like weekends in jail for slumlords like this. I think Mr. Weston should be forced to live here in the vacant apartment of his building for a few months too. That would be punishment.
The CLC is looking to put together a drug nuisance suit against him to force the building's closure. Anne Blumenberg and Jennifer Spiegel and other CLC staff were enthusiastic about how effective this could be. I had to admit that as unpleasant as it is, being boarded up would be better than the way that building is now. There was talk about how to help the residents, especially because of their three children, to find suitable housing, hopefully where they will be unable to continue selling crack. Mr. Duff agreed to have Midtown be the named plaintiff in the suit, which had been a stumbling block.
If the market could be quashed here, Midtown and Druid Heights could step in to help get these buildings rehabbed and back into productive, safe use.
City State's Attorney Jessamy and I exchanged a few emails prior to the meeting and she sent an assistant, Ms. Wash, from her office who's specialty is gangs. Since we are undoubtedly the home turf of a very well organized drug gang, she's committed to doing all she can. She's emailed me already today about meeting with our drug task force sergeant.
Many other points were discussed and several of us came away with assignments. Encouraging AME Payne Memorial to take an active role in helping here. Studying the idea of putting up a barricade to stop the drive through customers. Getting the school to bring in school police, especially at school closing time when the dealers swarm in amongst the kids and parents. Several other aspects were discussed, too.
Mr. White addressed the impact moving our market away will create. There's no doubt the market will not cross into Bolton Hill but likely would move across to McMechen more and east and possibly more north again into Reservoir Hill. As I've said repeatedly, there's no doubt all our efforts only move the problem elsewhere, but one can only hope those blocks will have people like Carlton Douglas around the corner who care enough to complain and work to protect their blocks.
Mr. Halvorsen commented that this meeting had more participants, all committed to this one block than similar meetings he's attended to discuss ten. It was truly an inspiring event for me. I am touched and amazed and enormously thankful that these people care enough about this little area that's been so long neglected.
An acquaintance from Bolton Hill visited this site for the first time the other day. Her response was "why would you even try?" I don't think I could explain it to her. I suppose my response would be "why would you not try."
There's a quote of RFK I love. "Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not." My version would be "I dream things as they once were, of a neighborhood that once was and ask why not again." According to our research, this house was built for an African American doctor. There's evidence in the front parlor of a waiting and reception area. He was not allowed to live or practice south of McMechen at the turn of the century before last (not everything from the past is better). There was a trolley car to downtown that rumbled past right out front. This was an area of hard working people. I'll bet they knew their neighbors. Fruits and vegetables were hawked from street corners, not crack. Their children weren't caught in the crossfire of drug wars. I bet they weren't afraid to go to sleep at night.
We must believe it could be a neighborhood again. Yesterday, more than a dozen people in positions to help showed us they believe and more than that, they are taking action.
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