Journal Entries for June, 2005

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Thursday, June 30, 6pm: Walked over to Mr. Chang's store at Eutaw and Wilson. Wanted some soda pop. Same guy who stopped selling crack pipes after a request by us and City Health Commissioner Beilenson.

Anyway, on the way back I crossed the vacant lot as usual. I passed a couple arguing about who would pay for their fix. Another guy on a bike asked if I was interested in a cordless driver drill for $10 (someone in Bolton Hill is looking for his).  All of a sudden, from a chorus on the steps there at 1715 Madison I heard "HI, Mr. Bryan" and a big woman came up to me with three kids in tow. She just wanted to say hi. "You remember me from that meeting!?" It was a PG tenants meeting last year. I did. I looked up and realized one of the off duty city officers serving as on duty PG security was right there, in his big SUV. It was a good moment. I felt like a community elder as I walked on to my door.

Earlier I met Officer Terry and Richard White (PG property management) about replacing the hoops in the city owned playground next to Eutaw Marshburn. I was thrilled to hear that IRM wants to help replace those hoops. "We want to be good neighbors." is what I think I heard Richard say. I know they do. I think Officer Terry of PAL was surprised. People often talk of helping and then don't come through. That's not us. And in this case at least, that's not Pedestal Gardens.

While talking with them, three squad cars drove up to 1712 Madison. Richard said "Is that something you need to attend to?" Sure enough, it was. Someone left the front door open there and the entry to the ground floor apartment was wide open, too. No one was found inside. Probably a careless real estate agent. The absentee owners are asking $179,000 don't you know. Still, we know what happens when such spaces are left wide open on this block. An express letter to the owners of record is going to them tomorrow. If I find the space left open again, I will personally board it up in such a way it takes hours to enter: 3/4" plywood and drilled out screws. Not good for a company looking to sell the property. Can I do that? Just try me.

Mr. White of IRM has assured HUD and me that we will have 24/7 security coverage of 1715-1717 Madison Avenue through the sixth. I'm thrilled. I'd like to go down to the Inner Harbor for the fireworks on the fourth. Still, if necessary, I'll take the hose and phone up to the roof as I did three years ago. Just don't want to have to.

Monday, June 27, noon: Up late this morning 'cause I was up very late last night. I had a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately not a time for which I have much nostalgia.

At midnight, just after the "security" staff of Pedestal Gardens get off duty officially (though who sees them on duty very often?) a deafening car stereo stopped to park directly in front of 1704. The crack house allure of that place continues. Small, dark blue two door. A young woman got out with a guy. They rendezvoused with the three dealers who regularly work the corner at 1700 Madison and together they "hung out," changing the music every few minutes, loudly talking.

The loud music is exactly the same marketing technique used by the ice cream truck. It alerts the customers the product is here. About ten minutes into it, people began coming out of Pedestal Garden's building at 1715-1717 Madison and from the main PG complex, walking or stumbling across the school yard  Some actually yelled from across the street "you got anything?" "Suuurrreee do!" was the reply.

Finally had enough about 12:45 and called police. Described the car, the people. The 911 operator was emphatic that I had to describe the clothing. I described the clothing of everyone I could see, said one had a football jersey with red letters, dark blue body and white sleeves. "What other color?" I told her I had no idea what she meant and the clothes were irrelevant anyway. The guys have taken to wearing their alternate t-shirts blatantly over their shoulders. Ready to change in ten seconds. They used to wear them in layers to peel off one color quick, but it was too hot and sticky for that. Of the dozen or more people on the street at 1am, only one was not selling or buying: a young woman hurriedly walking to her apartment with a small child in tow. I also told 911 the drugs were being stashed in a crack next to 1704's steps and in the car.

A squad car pulled up around the corner, hesitated for a few moments, then made the turn down Madison and drove smoothly past the players and their car without stopping. This had no effect on the dealing except to freeze the characters where they stood. They started right back up as the car drove out of sight. I called back and gave them a plate number and more descriptions, complaining that the squad car driving past was useless. The 911 operator said "some will stop, some won't."

A few minutes later, the young woman drove her car away, one dealer walked back to his digs at 1715-1717 and another across the school yard. A long five minutes later, another squad car came though, shined his spotlight all around the alley and behind Pedestal Garden's building, down Wilson and then parked in front of 1700 Madison. Few still out to be seen, but this gesture discouraged the dealers for the rest of the night.

I called back and asked that officer meet me in the substation. There I thanked him for a more aggressive patrol and gave him the plate number, further descriptions and how the dealing was operating. One suspect I described was the same he said he'd just stopped behind PG's 1715-1717. The officer said he told him if he was seen out on the street again tonight, he was going to jail. The guy was probably packing from what I could see. He had a telltale bulge in his t-shirt. Wouldn't have been surprised if the officer had been able to recover a handgun and vials or gel caps. Not sure I would have wanted him to confront this guy alone, though.

When our newest Commissioner was here a few weeks ago, he surveyed the block, just three from his own house, and said "we're going to fix this." I don't see it. Commissioner Hamm has been aware of the drug market three blocks from his own home for as long as he's lived here. I recall discussing it with him, neighbor to neighbor, at a Madison Park Association meeting a few years ago. So far, all I see he's done is endorse a fence around the 1715-1717 Pedestal Gardens building. Perhaps he wants to think -- or wants us to think -- that's going to make the difference. Doubtful.

Frequent and more aggressive patrols by both marked and unmarked officers and cars and perhaps a foot patrol or two are the only tactics proven to work in this neighborhood.

And it would help a lot if street officers were not randomly assigned to other sectors. I see different officers all the time. Moving them around makes it impossible for them to know the people on their beat. If you get to know the beat, you know the good folks from the bad. You know where to look. Some take real pride in protecting "their turf." The positive antithesis to the dealers protecting their own territories.

We used to have several effective officers who were regulars in this sector that runs from the notorious drug market of Pennsylvania Avenue through the affluent neighborhood of Bolton HIll. I seldom see them anymore. Too many of the officers assigned here don't have time to get to know the beat, essential to do the "community policing" the new Commissioner promises so frequently at press conferences and on radio shows.


Update, 6;30pm: Actually saw an off duty police officer just now on security duty for the Pedestal Gardens property across the street. On foot, with his clearly marked blue t-shirt "POLICE." Even better, he actually looked across the street. No newspaper. No car. He would have completely prevented this morning's antics on Madison. It would be great if this officer wouldn't mind spending his Fourth of July with us.


Sunday, June 26, 11am: Our dealers have taken up a neat merchandising system on the corner. Went on all afternoon and into the evening. They simply lay the goods out on the stone wall of the school playground ...

self service

Passers by choose their poison and lay the money under a rock on the other side of the wall under the watchful gaze of the dealer on duty who is no more than five steps away. Price is determined by number of fingers. We must have had two products yesterday. Likely heroin gel caps and simple crack vials. One was five. One was eight.

It was fun to see that each one supervising the store carried an extra t-shirt, always a different color. Neat system. An officer observing would not see a hand to hand. "That's not mine!" I can just hear them saying. Should it come to a chase, the shirt gets changed en route so the pursuing officer's description is thrown off. Stock is replenished by going to the stash apartments directly across the street at 1700 and in the Pedestal Gardens building.

Watched as three of these dealers had a lengthy discussion in the vacant lot of PG, gesturing to the dealer on duty. Probably discussing quotas and merchandising techniques. Only saw the "security" for PG once all day, and I'm not even sure he was security, but that's no surprise.

Left a note in the substation yesterday for the officer who seems unable to clean up after himself. He leaves food debris on the table, can't seem to flush a toilet. Leaves the restroom fan on so it sucks all the AC out of the room. Even left the water running in the sink one day.
First time we've ever had this problem. The clincher was that he ripped off the note I'd attached to the AC, asking that the thermostat be left alone, and put it at max. I'm sure he was hot when he came in, but there's no need to get the room to 60 degrees at night. BGE isn't cheap. I'm a bit tired of it and wrote that I'd hate to have to prohibit this officer from using the substation or close it to all, but that there's no maid and no one pays us for the use of the space. Hopefully, he'll be more considerate of us and his fellow officers and that will be the end of it.

No activity at all to remove the Kensett Apartment mountain of trash. I'll be interested to see if Housing, Environmental Crimes and Sanitation Enforcement react. Utter contempt, I'd call it.

Friday, June 24, 11am: Noticed the off duty officers in different cars Wednesday night. A small white sedan. A small gray pickup. Might have been Flex team, too. Seemed like they were paying attention. Others were paying attention to them, too. Few if any fireworks from the immediate vicinity. I think the dealers and the firework fiends both know when the officers are where they should be, even a block or two over. A good thing.

The new Mount Trashmore got attention from city officials yesterday. We were up on the roof patching a leak and saw a city sanitation officer, an investigator for environmental crimes and a housing inspector all lined up in the alley having a talk with a young lady who turned out to be the site supervisor. Some of the workers threatened one of the officers. They didn't like him taking pictures. The Housing man warned them if the alley wasn't clear today, he'd levy a $1000 per day fine. I see a truck taking that away now. The mountain of rubble is supposed to be cleared tomorrow, with skiploaders and roll offs. A huge job. We'll see if that happens, but since workers were hostile to the city people doing their jobs, I suspect they won't get away with anything more.

I don't like to call city people in unless necessary. I don't care what people do with their own property so long as it doesn't affect the safety and well being of others, whether they be tenants or neighbors. Some, however, just do whatever they want, expecting no one will step up. That's what Druid House and 1700 Madison Avenue thought. But they're no longer dumping their trash into the alley behind this house, leaving me to deal with it. And apparently Kensett House (1700 Eutaw) is beginning to realize they can't block alleys and provide new low cost housing for rats.

Wednesday, June 22, 12:19am: Just now, several volleys of fireworks went off  from the parking area of the Pedestal Gardens building at 1715-1717 Madison and then from the corner of Wilson and McCulloh. I can tell those are from people moving along as they light them off. Such fun.

I had marveled how quiet it had been tonight compared to last. No out of control kids shrieking till midnight either. I know why. The security men from Pedestal Gardens were on their post in that parking lot most of the night. First the pickup truck shift. Then the SUV. As obvious as if they were in a squad car. Foxtrot did several searchlight passes overhead, too. Dealing was near nonexistent.

PG security gets off duty at midnight as is painfully obvious to those who live here and delightful to dealers. They should be on till two, three on weekends. That's been established repeatedly.  I hope there'll be all night coverage of their buildings as we get closer to July 4. We've come to rely on that since the debacle of July 4, 2002. I'd hate to have notes of a consistent pattern of escalation until something happens.

Found out what's been going on at 1700 Eutaw, catercorner from PG: The demolition crew's been dumping tons and tons of debris out the side window between it and the neighbor at 1702. Must be a pile nearly two stories high so far ...

rubble

Then it's dragged to a makeshift corral in the alley where it's later hauled away to who knows where...

alley behind PG

That's why the ambulance couldn't get through.

This is all from the same building where about a couple years now a roof leak ran for so long it began flowing out of the basement through stress cracks in the footing wall bricks. We were wondering if they might blow out before neighbors and the fire department could find the valve to shut it off. Turned out two relatives of the owner had been living there. They were mysteriously sitting in their truck, watching, but doing nothing. Not overly concerned. Their contention was it was ice from the roof. Hmmm. I wonder what the insurance settlement was.

All this rubble makes the six rolloffs we had taken away seem like dusting the house.

I'm all for renovations and finding creative ways to do it, but this doesn't seem the way. And when it's done, I'm wondering if the plan is for more subsidized, low income housing with no parking or facilities. That's what it was when HUD foreclosed on it and sold it off for less than $200k. Estimates are a million to fix it. I can see that. We sure need more  dense low income housing on this block. <g>

Said hi to a young man from New Jersey who was looking at 1712. He's sure the building there will go for well over $150k. Plans on being an absentee landlord. I assured him I'll be his building's supervisor whether he likes it or not and cautioned him about absentee landlords on this block, pointing at 1704. He couldn't believe I'd live here. Obviously, he'd have no problem renting to whomever would. I'm not encouraged by the possible fate of 1712.

Lauretta Brown, staff chief for Council President Dixon, called to assure me she was looking into getting us details of the contract accepted by Housing among the many offers for 1704 prior to the city Board of Estimates acting on the matter. I assured her we hope the offer and plan are good for the block, but would like the chance to give input on it. I think that's the least we could ask for all the trouble we've gone to get it to this point. Supposed to be up for approval -- or not -- soon. Will keep you posted.

The fireworks seem spent now, about 1am, so off to bed.

Monday, June 20, 11:59pm
: Saw about two dozen kids running around and carrying on all evening between the Pedestal Gardens buildings. Was OK except for those shooting big fireworks from somewhere near the school yard from about  8 to 10. Finally called the police about 11:30 to suggest these kids should be asked to go home. Didn't think this would be a big priority, but just a couple minutes later I heard a squad car squawk something to them like "time to go home." The kids scattered. Many to 1715-1717, the rest through the school grounds to the main PG Courtyard. The officer even went round the block to follow them home.

No hint of parents concerned for these kids. No sign of any security, as I've come to expect. PG is becoming more of a burden on the city police again. Exactly what the Central District Major insisted should not be allowed to happen at our meeting with HUD last December. That's a shame. The only time we see them is perhaps once a day, if that, and then usually sitting in their car for a short time in the early afternoon. No deterrence to anyone, whether dealers or the kids who should be supervised better for their safety and the neighborhood's.

Was startled from a sound sleep this morning by the ladder truck from our fire station. Had the windows wide open to enjoy the perfect cool night breeze. The horn and siren were deafening. I went to my window relieved not to smell smoke or see flames here or anywhere else. It was a paramedic call. The EMT's went to the green fire doors they're used to finding wide open. Knocked. Someone hollered down to them to go around to the entry doors, which they did. The ambulance pulled up on the wrong side, too. Then tried to go around the alley and found it blocked by a huge pile of demolition debris. The EMT's trotted down the alley with their equipment, not wanting to waste any more time. Seemed a false alarm as they left.

Those doors are usually secured now and have cameras on them to discourage the rampant dealing from them that was happening much of last year. That's been an improvement. Until yesterday afternoon, there was a signal from one of those doors. A high pitched squeal. I didn't really hear it over here unless the TV was off and the windows open. But from the PG building, you could hear it loudly. Vaughn wondered why the security guards or residents didn't report it to maintenance. I replied I don't think security gets out of the car over here very often and the residents are all in cinder block cells with AC blaring. Neither wants to complain to management.

These paramedic calls to this 23 unit building are common. We're concerned if the new fence will allow them to respond as quickly as they could. Pedestal Gardens reps should speak to the firemen and make clear how to access the building, both through the doorways and the soon to be fence. Could be a matter of life and death. I'm going to speak to the construction workers and sanitation enforcement about them blocking the alley tomorrow morning. They don't have a rolloff, just a pile. Can't be legal. Certainly not safe. And no doubt a great nesting space for the rats.

Saturday, June 18, noon: Not so long ago, all the noise in the street right now would have me scared. Not today. The Payne Memorial AME Church is having a festival. Not much turn out so far, but the street is closed off and some tables set up, music blaring. A moonbounce is up, too.

moon bounce

A bunch of kids and their fathers or older brothers (or perhaps just nice guys) are playing football in front of the house. While out with the dogs earlier, the Nerf football came sailing overhead. Cino, the big pit bull, thought it was a new toy. I was sorry to disappoint him, but rescued it from his impressive jaws and tossed it back to cheers from the kids in the street. His colleague in crime fighting, McGruff, has been out talking to the kids.

McGruff

Looking out the window right now, I'm reminded of a scene from David Simon's The Corner. The one where he juxtaposed the placid, familial ambience of the 50's with the horrid reality of the 80's crack market the same corner had become. Today, it looks like the 50's or at least what I imagine it would have been. That this could become the norm around here would be far more than I'd ever hoped. Seeing this brings tears to my eyes, just as the two BBQ's did.

The kids are touring the ladder truck from our neighborhood fire house. Fascinated.

ladder truck

Susan (who regularly donates waters to the substation) reports that while on the Crime Orientation Bus Tour last week, they watched as two youths sold crack from their porch while an older woman looked on. The bus had stopped while a rep from Reservoir Hill made comments about the neighborhood. Major Shepperd radioed in to dispatch officers. I'm sure he was embarrassed, though of course it's not his fault. Reservoir Hill is touted as such a success story by city officials. I know people who live there. It ain't all it's cracked up to be ... yet. No pun intended.

Friday, June 17, noon: Went into the alley last night to intercept two very out of place looking men wandering down the alley. They were looking around. Turned out they were looking at 1704. Russians, very limited English. Seems word of Baltimore's real estate feeding frenzy is going world wide. I informed them the deadline had passed for submitting offers on 1704, but they held up a computer print out to disagree. Probably printed a few weeks ago. I warned them this was not the alley for people with nice clothes and watches to be walking about in the dark. But they knew best. Whether from DC, NYC, Russia or city hall, everyone visiting here seems to know better about  this block than me. Perhaps I'm too close to the issues here to see the big picture. Perhaps they're just idiots. I guess we'll be finding out soon.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched a two door black sedan pull up across the street, directly in front of where the new gate for Pedestal Gardens will be installed. (Still hoping to see that soon.) Three men came up separately, the driver got out, opened his trunk. They browsed through what looked to be fireworks. Each took a shopping bag of assorted goodies with him. One went directly into the PG building, as did the driver a couple times that I saw. No doubt drumming up business. So much for my going to the harbor to watch the fireworks July 4th. I'll be too busy trying to prevent fires right here.

Of course, no PG security to be seen during this. I guess because it wasn't technically taking place on their property. However I did see a guy in an impressive dark outfit yesterday. His back was emblazoned POLICE. He walked from the PG parking lot to the corner about school closing time, 2:45. I thought maybe, just maybe, he was going to do that great thing the old security company's officer did (Mr. Brown): watch out for the kids as they left school. This one didn't. He just walked past the dealers and kids and parents and teachers on the corner, across the school grounds, no doubt to the main courtyard of PG. At least he was visible ... for a few minutes.

Called 911 twice last night about two dealers playing tag team at the school (drug full zone, don't you know?) and across the street at 1700 Madison. Both identically dressed. White long t-shirts and those bleached out looking jeans that are the fashion now.  Perfect perch for them. They get the drive through business of Wilson and the convenient access to the customers from all three surrounding buildings of Pedestal Gardens.

I have to say PG has been consistently good about cleaning up after itself for a while now. The dumpster is usually empty, even when local haulers use it. (The fence should prevent that.) I see tenants using it properly most of the time, not just chucking it in the general direction of an over full dumpster as they once did. I also see staff of PG picking up around the place. In fact they inspired me the other day to pick up the empty beer bottles and chicken wrappers and knock down the weeds in front of our house.

Watched a guy peeing on the side of the garage of 1704 yesterday. On our clearly marked property, the parking place for the officers. Let the dogs out to bark at him. Asked him what "the _uck" he was doing. "Sorry, I just had to go." I told him next time he'd be arrested.  Strange mentality among too many residents. I have to ask: if you make your home a toilet, what does that make you?

Wednesday, June 15, noon: Very good column by Dan Rodricks in the Sun today. Check it out.

Would that the dealers listen to his plea.

Our dealers are seemingly few and far between. I could still buy my crack at the corner of Wilson and Madison Avenue anytime. There's almost always at least one of our resident dealers there. Still, it continues to be better. Perhaps it's just too hot to hang on the corner. Perhaps the regulars know which apartment to go to.

Our alley is looking better. The landlord and mini mart owner has finally taken heed of the collections supervisor who told him his cans would be removed as illegal dumping. He must put them on his property on non collection days. That end of the alley is clear mostly now. No cans in the middle to block the alley. No bags of loose trash rifled through by the rats. I've even seen the proprietor out there picking up bags from people who still consider it their dump.

Druid House, the property directly across the alley from the substation, seems to have finally gotten the message ... again. Only took six months. The property manager there has played games with everyone, seeming to understand the rules and then ignoring them when he thought no one was looking. Just yesterday he said "enough small talk" to the collections supervisor who asked him where they were hauling their excess trash now. Called it nit picking. The assistant chief of collections is going to require them to get a dumpster for all those apartments. About time.  I'm just happy they're not feeding the rats like they were.

Now that the garage at 1704 has been cleared out we don't see nearly as many rats. I'm playing cat and mouse with one who insists on burrowing into the basement steps, but between rabbit wire and cement he's going to lose his digs eventually.

The house two doors up from us at 1712 Madison is for sale for $179,000 according to another potential buyer who wanted to know if he could get $500 a month for each of the six apartments on this block. He's from New York. Considers it a steal. Struck me as the next absentee crack house slum lord on the block. I doubt very much he could get that much in rent. He thinks students would want it, but I don't think many students will want to live in such cramped and decrepit apartments. He'd then have to lower the rents and his standards. We know where that leads. It's a pity the owners want out. They were lucky to have good, long term tenants whom they've evicted so they could sell it at will.

Thursday, June 9, 8pm: Whenever I've written it, I regret, but it needs to be said for those who care: Things around the block are very quiet tonight. Might be the unstable weather. It's hot and we're having occasional showers. At least it's quiet as far as the dealing goes. The kids on McCulloh and down the street are certainly not quiet. But who cares? The sound of kids playing trumps the incessant "greens out, greens, greens, greens!" that used to drive me batty.

Saw the city police officer who is coordinating the off duty officers in charge of providing security at Pedestal Gardens yesterday. He was using the substation as he's always done when on duty. As I noted previously, whether one agrees with me or not, the place is there for on duty officers. Was glad to see him back on his dirt bike after a few months off due to an injury sustained attending the big pageant downtown. He was reviewing my comments about the security at Pedestal Gardens on the internet station we provide here. While I have great respect for this officer's work and was glad to see him back on duty for the city, I make no apologies for writing my observations about the services he's coordinating off duty for a private corporation.

In fact, I hope we can get past our differences and work together on creating a dirt bike squad.  When on duty, he's been so effective around here. We need such officers on duty more shifts.  I've written Suzuki America about donating the bikes. What great PR that would be for them! Every neighborhood represented at the recent Community Council meeting I attended wants their own "dirt bike squad." A tribute to Officer Clark's work.

Tuesday, June 7, 9:20pm: Heard loud booms just now and looked out to see those high flying aerial fireworks being set off from the parking lot of Pedestal Gardens at 1717 Madison Avenue. Between the PG building and Eutaw Place. I'm sure just frying their nerves. Obviously, no one supervising this building, as usual even though we've been repeatedly promised it.

I did see a man in a big black POLICE shirt and shorts walking out of the parking lot this afternoon. He was with what appeared to be a buddy. Assuming it wasn't a fashion statement (he appeared so casual) this was the first sighting of security in days. Even more rare to see them on foot, even if they were leaving the workplace, likely checking out another of the PG buildings.

Last night, we saw two squad cars on this side of the PG building, searching a van with at least one person in custody. I didn't speak to the officers so I don't know what it was about. I did see a cruiser go fast up the wrong way in the driving rain. I don't know if this was in cooperation with the security there, or because of the lack of it. Could have been either. Vaughn smiled at me when  I asked what it was about. "You know it's drugs." Of course it is. But maybe it's fireworks. I'd like to get that supplier for sure.

Two people were walking down the alley this afternoon while I was out with the dogs. One a realtor and the other her brother, a contractor. They had looked at 1712 Madison, two doors down and were touring the neighborhood. I filled them in. Was shocked to learn that decrepit six unit apartment house is listed for somewhere in the high 100's. I advised them what they might be getting into on the block, but added it was looking better and that would be especially true if we finally had another owner occupant on the block.

A check of the last recent property transactions on 1712 would appear a sham of flipping between fresh LLP's to inflate the price. From $65,000 in March this year to $425,000 less than a month later. Who regulates the accuracy of these figures? The absentee landlord has evicted all the tenants now. I guess he's decided to unload it during the hot market rather than invest in the extensive renovation it would require.

As usual, I wonder when the substation doesn't get used much if it's because of my comments. Actually, I don't think most of the officers read or care what I write. That's fine. The police pit stop is not about politics. Realized it's just so warm. So many people out. When I called 911 to report the obviously dangerous fireworks, I was put on hold for a minute. Would have been a long minute had it been an intruder in the house or an attack in progress. Was probably calls from residents of Eutaw Place shaken out of their couches by the fireworks. The officers are just too busy to take lunch or stop to use the head sometimes. Probably too busy to respond to a call about those shooting fireworks who would be long gone by the time they arrive. That's what a deterrent security presence is for anyway. Wonder if we'll finally get that across the street by July 4.


Watched out the window directly in front of the house this afternoon as a young man chatted briefly with someone idling in his car, took a brown paper bag and then returned to his post on the stoop of 1700 Madison Avenue. The car sped off. Watched as residents of PG and from around the corner came up for a few minutes, appeared to shake hands and then were on their way. I'm sure this was just the guy's bag lunch and he simply has lots of friends. (sarcasm, in case you were in doubt <g>).

Sergeant Hess has reserved a place for Vaughn on the crime orientation bus tour coming up. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of it.


Tuesday, June 7, noon
: This from Sergeant Hess, PR man for the City Police Central District. It's an invitation I did not receive though I believe it's open to the public and would invite you to attend. When I went, it was very informative. I suspect I've been dropped from the list because when told about wonderful improvements in crime, I ask tough questions in open forum: about a recent murder two blocks away, the dealing every afternoon across from our elementary school and the common place muggings and larcenies in Bolton Hill. All of which are seen as normal by too many in authority.

The next Central District Neighborhood Bus Tour will take place on Saturday, June 11, 2005. Our guests will assemble at the M.I.C.A. Bunting Center located at 1401 Mount Royal Avenue ( Mt Royal at Lafayette) at 4:00 PM. Parking for personal vehicles is available on the lot behind the Bunting Center. A brief discussion period of District crime patterns, tour agenda, purpose and focal points will take place. At about 4:30 PM we will be seated on the bus and begin the tour. The tour will take us through the C.D. neighborhoods and a community leader of the neighborhood being toured will comment on the positive and negative feature and future plans of their neighborhood. The highlight of the tour will be a visit to the Atrium on Howard Street where we will see the Westside Renaissance Control Room for the 50 security cameras. These are state of the art digital cameras recording on hard drives instead of tapes or disks. Many neighborhoods are looking to obtain camers for their areas and this will show them camera capabilities now. The bus will then return to the Bunting Center where we will have refreshments and a mixer to discuss information disseminated on the tour. We are now reserving seats on the bus. The bus has thirty seats. If you would like to participate on the tour then contact me or Off. Wooding by e-mail (charles.hess@baltimorepolice.org) or phone 410 727-5480 by Wednesday June 8 and we`ll save a seat for you and a guest if requested. Thanks, Sgt. Charlie Hess

Vaughn has requested to attend. Certainly, he's far more patient and less critical than me, though he cares as much. We have frequently played bad cop/good cop when trying to foment change. I do know patience has not been what's made the progress around here.


Monday, June 6, 1pm: The zoning variance to allow a 6' fence and gate system across the street was approved last week, as expected. Vaughn attended in support. One of the commissioners was surprised anyone would show up in support of the appeal who wasn't the owner or his attorney. I think it demonstrates we have an open mind. And of course, we're just plain crazy that way. No motivation but a better neighborhood.

Our reservations about the police approving the fence were met with a letter from Commissioner Hamm, endorsing it as both commissioner and neighbor. He said he approved it when we met on the sidewalk a few weeks ago. I'm sure few of his subordinates are going to question him and I have no reason to, either. We'll wait and see if it's worth the cost.

MM from across the street on Eutaw, one of those whose apartment houses burned during the July 4 fires nearly three years ago now, showed up, still angry. Adamant in her opposition to anything Pedestal Gardens wanted to do, even if it might help make the neighborhood and that property safer for us all. The commissioners had to bring her back on subject repeatedly when she spoke. She mistakenly believed that was a forum for her tirades. One of her complaints was she hadn't seen the sign. I guess she doesn't read here anymore. Just as well. I don't write this site to be popular.

She told Vaughn in the hall during a break we sold out the neighborhood and lied about the fireworks ... for a toilet. The Pedestal Gardens property managers donated a toilet and faucet when we opened the substation two and a half years ago. About $125 worth of fixtures. Oh, yes, we sold out for a toilet police officers use every day. That's it. So selfish. <g>

Got this email from our Drug Squad Sergeant:

"Bryan,

Executed 28 search warrants on 2 Jun 05, made 14 arrests, numerous arrests pending, seized 6 handguns, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and $102,000.00. Did you catch it on Channel 13?

Sgt. Wimmer"

It must be very gratifying to have one's work pay off so handsomely. This is an even more impressive accomplishment than what they did across the street and in the main courtyard of PG, which he wrote about in the guest book afterward.

Susan brought us another couple of flats of bottled waters for the officers. They'll go fast on days like this. Thank you again Susan.

She came in during a surprise birthday party my buddies threw for me. Cake and hats and all. I think she thought she was interrupting, but we had plenty for her and any officers who might have come in. None did. I think the shifts have rotated again. Those on what is now the afternoon use it more than the other shift. Might be their lieutenant doesn't approve of a break room. MIght be because the two officers banished from the substation are from that shift. That was the two officers who spent more than half their shifts on three consecutive Sundays watching football. Only two officers have ever abused the substation. As I've told both the new commissioners and both the new Majors, The Police Pit Stop on Madison Avenue makes the officers more efficient, not less.

One of our drug gangs even gave me a birthday present, though unintentionally. Vaughn and I took down a pair of Nike sandals that had been looped over the street light directly across the street from us. There were basketball shoes looped over the school yard fence, too. Markers, though I'm not sure how they're read. We had seen the officer who runs the Police Athletic League Center there removing some, too. Just as with graffiti, these marks must not be allowed. Was going to trash them and realized they were perfectly good, barely used. After a thorough cleaning, I've got new sandals. Great for this sweltering weather.

I could use a pair of size 10 tennis shoes, too, guys. But I think the sandals were a thoughtful gift.

Just got back up from putting the AC in the window down there. Had gotten to 82. A few hours from now, we'll be keeping it at 70 till Fall.

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