Journal Entries for May, 2005
Tuesday, May 31, 11am: The mild spring evening had throngs of kids running about last night. When I came home about 9pm, I heard lots of fireworks going off. Then, much to my dismay, I saw aerial rockets, spewing bright sparks, rise from the parking lot, possibly the alley on the other side of the Pedestal Gardens building at 1715-1717 Madison. The kids were running between the main courtyard of PG, through the school grounds and the 1715 building, setting off fireworks along the way. Clearly, the kids doing it would have been plainly visible to anyone watching the cameras, if they are installed properly, and certainly to any security guard paying any attention at all.
Obviously, no one was watching anything. I had to call the city police because PG was not supervising itself, as usual lately. Clearly not living up to its repeated promises.
Apparently the property management has completely forgotten the fireworks of three years ago when two houses backing to their building were set ablaze. On that occasion, it could not be proven the people so intent on setting something on fire were from PG. When I saw it happen, the fireworks came from the stoop of my neighbor next door. But I doubt anyone in the neighborhood was impressed by last night's lack of supervision at PG. If that's a taste of what we can expect this summer, I expect all the neighbors will unite and say "enough!"
As I watched the incendiaries fly overhead, I wished for a moment the kids would set their own building on fire, but of course instead they were aiming over this way and Eutaw Place.
The police came through. Foxtrot flew overhead. It began to rain lightly. Perhaps this crop of fireworks were spent. It began to quiet down and by 11 was peaceful. Downright serene. I wonder if we'll be so lucky this July 4th.
Today is the zoning meeting regarding installing a fence around 1715-1717. Vaughn plans to attend. I have work. I look forward to his report. I do wonder if this fence will be effective. I wonder if city cops, those who do not accept money from Pedestal Gardens, have approved of the plans. I know former CD Major Skinner did not like fences. Felt they interfered with officer's access and safety. CD Lieutenant Bailey, a long time veteran of these battles, voiced strong reservations when I asked him his opinion at the Community Council Meeting. Certainly the elaborate fencing at the main courtyard does not seem to improve its safety or security. For sure, that fence had no value last night.
Sunday, May 29, 11am: The city crews cleared a vacant lot between 1705 and 1709 McCulloh last week, directly through the alley vacant lot we fenced. Yesterday morning a dozen neighborhood kids were playing kickball there with gusto. Loud but good loud. So much better than "greens out, get your crack here, greens out!" I still find crack vials in the yard every day. Mostly black topped now. Apparently that's the brand that rules the block now. At least they're doing it discreetly.
The portable cameras on Pennsylvania Avenue seem to be having their effect. From what I can see, the dealing is moving west, not displaced to us east. I'm surprised, grateful. I'm all for shoving the problem away for others to deal with. I know Major Skinner, now of the Western District, can deal with it. I personally want to shove the crack dealing into the suburbs to prove to those cowards you can't run from the problems of the inner city. I hate it when I hear suburbanites call into radio talk shows about how bad the city is, that it should be bulldozed, etc, rationalizing their or their parents choice to flee. I'll resent that choice ... right up until I make it.
The dealing on Wilson, around the corner from us, has been more sedate, too. This has nothing to do with the never seen security at Pedestal Gardens obviously. But I have seen less traffic to and from the PG building lately. I imagine those who watch the PG cameras in Rockville, between donut breaks, are seeing less pedestrian traffic, too. Not that they care or know what they see anyway.
Not surprisingly, I'm afraid my frank comments here and in open meetings may have offended some. I did not see an email inviting me to the Community Council meeting last Wednesday, as usual. I guess I should not be surprised. It's a PR event. I ask unflattering questions and point to unattractive facts while brass and bureaucrats tout the wonders of their work.
As some readers here have pointed out, where would I be without something to complain about? That's true. Being the squeaky wheel on this block has been my calling for over four years. But I know very well that role has been useful in making this block more livable. Should I stop now? I don't know. I do know I let my guard down a lot more in recent months. I live more like a normal person. I no longer carry a pistol in my robe when I use the restroom at night. I don't carry pepper spray when I walk across the street to the Rite Aide. I haven't cleaned the shotgun in months. I don't investigate every noise in the night with my sidekick, Cino, the wonder pit bull dog. We're both more at ease.
Are things better here? Permanently this time? I don't know. But we can hope.
Thursday, May 26, 1pm: Lots of non drug activity on the block today. Hammers, lumber in trucks, an earth mover, the smell of roofer's tar. Not that our dealers weren't on post as usual. They're setting up shop for the school closing bell when their market day begins.
Saw two squad cars and a paddy wagon out front for a bit. Heard the telltale squeaky brakes. Watched, but they stayed in their cars and then slowly turned the corner onto Wilson. I expected them to drop by the substation, but no. Looked like they were patrolling down the street, perhaps giving the evil eye and gesturing "want a ride?" Wonder if they were sending a message to the dealers on the corner.
A couple days ago, I crossed the street through the vacant lot next to Pedestal Gardens, past the dumpster and the Jeep of one of the security personnel. School had just let out. The kids were all over. So were the dealers. He was reading his paper, engrossed. Pretty cush job. Sit and read the paper. Used to be our security people helped discourage the dealers on the corner and to see to it the kids could cross the street safely. They didn't wear blinders or read the paper. Good neighboring, I'd call it. I miss that.
I took the subway that day. As I got off at Shot Tower, I found the escalators from the very deep tunnel still in pieces. Major overhaul going on. Took the five flights of steps without being winded. OK for an old guy. At the top of the stairs, just outside, was a big blue pickup. Its owner was buffing wax off the truck, wearing the overalls of the company doing the escalator work. I said "that's a lot of stairs." His cheery reply "exercise is good for you." I wonder if that's what the old woman still waiting for the elevator down below was thinking.
As I walked down toward the water, I passed new crosswalks under construction. For some reason the powers that be felt we needed to have decorative brick sidewalks on President's Street. No doubt quite expensive. Yet the sidewalks in front of our house are broken to pieces. Watched as one man pressure washed the freshly installed brick. Five supervisors were standing around, doing nothing. On the next block, two workers were standing as if turned to stone. Don't know what type of drugs they were on. Cars were forced into one lane of the usual three. I was walking faster than they were moving.
I was struck with the lack of pride of so many who do only as little as they can get away with. Nothing more.
Great article in the Wall Street Journal today about the city and its star Mayor. Of course everyone here already knows Baltimore's housing market is hot. God knows I got a lesson in that when the stampeding investors wanted to see 1704 over here in what I'm now calling Bolton Hill West. Makes me think maybe this house won't be such a bad investment after all, if I can keep it from collapsing in on itself. Of course, if we sold, where would we move?
It does seem the city is being sold out from under many of its own citizens. We cater to the tourism industry down at the Inner Harbor as if that was the only part of the city that matters. We sell city owned housing not to middle class folk who want to make a home, but to the highest bidder from out of town. There's a backlash to that: More and more Baltimoreans won't be able to afford homes here. We will have more houses with inflated prices waiting for the neighborhood to turn around, as we have in Reservoir Hill. Rents will continue to skyrocket. The middle class who live and work in the city will end up simply enriching the investors. The poor will just have it that much harder.
Dollar houses didn't work, but selling all this housing stock to the highest bidder isn't right either. We should be encouraging and helping Baltimore families to buy their first homes, to get out of the rent game. Not giving away the houses, but selling them in reasonable ways that allow real people to better themselves.
Saturday, May 21st, 9am: As expected, no one from the city came by to secure the garage last Thursday after the city crew did such a good job. It was left ajar, though very empty. It was left to me to secure 1704 Madison Avenue ... yet again. I wired it shut as I did the rear gate long ago. The crack folk and whores would need to carry tin snips to get in. In my experience, neither is usually that ambitious. I know they love the fact my neighbors on the other side have wide open yards where men regularly go, from the crack convenience market on Wilson around the corner. No doubt their stash is there, amidst the debris.
Ironic that now the city itself is the property owner of 1704, they're barely doing a better job than when the city sanitation supervisor ran his crack and heroin convenience mart there. Both landlords have had to be forced to do the right thing. And more ironic I'd have a screaming match both with the old owner and a representative of the new one. The arrogance and continued disregard for the damage this property does to our block astounds me.
Several episodes of yelling around the Pedestal Gardens building last night. Rowdy drunks mostly. That ain't bad for a spring evening at PG, but it was rainy and cool. As is usual lately, no security to be seen. My neighbors on this side of the street and those tenants I know from 1715-1717 agree: Where are they? They're surprised to hear we now off duty city officers. Vaughn suggests there's so much trouble over at the main courtyard they don't have time for this building. That has often been the case. But on several occasions, the property management and HUD have assured us this one building will have its own security officer. Experience has proven that's necessary. I've often asked how that can be viable for a 23 unit building, but been assured by HUD officials it's within budget. The deep pockets of Uncle Sam.
Vaughn had an interesting observation: If we're now using off duty police officers, do they have arrest authority as did some of our commissioned security guards? I assume they do. Problem he sees is what motivation do they have to make arrests, assuming they are on patrol and see problems? They have a demanding day job. One he suspects won't let them off duty to appear in court for their off duty pursuits. Certainly the property management firm, now that it is employing the security directly, has no motivation to pay overtime for court appearances.
Another issue I fear is these new off duty officers might consider their concern only the exact property lines of Pedestal Gardens. That does not work when you own apartment complexes across from the school and street from each other. What happens in the block surrounded on three sides by PG property, with traffic to and from, is very much the responsibility of Pedestal Gardens. I thought we'd gotten long past that argument, but now we're on the third security provider, second IRM VP, third police commissioner and third city Major since we moved here. Having to go over old ground with each of these again and again hampers PG's progress as much as it's done to the city.
I've contacted HUD to try to coordinate their meeting with the new security staff to make clear what their expectations are. Further, at the suggestion of our State's Attorney Liaison, I'm again coordinating a meeting between all the law enforcement agencies involved in this area: city police, school police, MICA, and the new PG security. That seemed useful last time, but so many of the players have changed since.
Ah, but the management of all aspects of this huge Section 8 property is a matter between its owners and HUD, from whom they make their money. I've tried to help all I can. My neighbors and I just want it under control. As we do all the neighborhood's properties, including those owned by the city.
Thursday, May 19th, 2pm: Another chapter seems almost ended in the saga of 1704 Madison Avenue. Alternate title: The Incredible Ordeal of Cleaning Up a Crack House in Baltimore.
This was a good chapter, too. It had violence (well almost) anger, threats, a dictionary of expletives, screaming, cops and bad guys, rats and filth, personal victory and so much more.
At one point yesterday afternoon I looked 15 seconds in the future and saw myself in fisticuffs with a 6'3" city employee. Likely rolling around the alley amidst the filth, knocking the heck out of each other, rats running in all directions. No, not Clarence Weston. Fortunately some of our city officers responded and that inviting little scenario did not happen. Part of me wishes it had. I have such rage and frustration at times around here. Some already know about that. I can fly off the handle, though usually only when provoked and when I've been extremely patient. And this time I was certainly provoked.
I looked out the back yesterday afternoon to see a fancy SUV parked in the officer's parking space. Didn't see the driver. It didn't seem like an unmarked unit and there were no officers in the substation. Then I saw a man standing next to the open door of the garage at 1704.
I asked him what he was doing. I was pleasant ... to start. I thought he might be a city employee finally out to do something about the rat infestation of a now city owned property.
He rudely replied "none of your business" or something to that effect. You can imagine how pleased that made me.
"It is my business. YOU have no idea."
"I'm with housing. You been complaining about the rats. We're going to poison them."
"You can't just toss poison in and walk away, it doesn't solve the problem. You gotta take away the junk and close it up or they just come right back. And you won't have to deal with the stench and half dead, dazed rats stumbling around for days."
"You don't tell me what to do! We poison them."
I'm not adding the proper inflections here. It was becoming loud and tense.
I said I would not let him just poison them again. He threatened to hit me, using some truly graphic expletives to describe how. I walked away, dialing 911 while he muttered some unpleasantries, told them what had happened and that the man was trespassing on my property (both car and person) and had threatened me. That if it escalated and he reentered my property I might have to get the shot gun.
I then returned to him and a shouting match ensued at very high volume.
Four squad cars responded at that point where I saw myself about to let loose so much frustration and rage.
As an officer reminded me "G-U-N in a 911 call gets all out attention." I apologized. I should have remembered. That was the only way I got an officer to respond to the bottle rockets being lobbed all around the block in an effort to set something on fire. "If an incendiary device is shot through my window, I will respond with a shot gun in self defense." 911: "Is that a threat? "Yes, if that's what it takes for you to send an officer." Unfortunately, by the time the officer responded it was too late. Two houses were on fire. But that's a different chapter.
I knew the officers of course. They spoke to each of us separately. I told an officer and him that if he didn't move his car right now, it was going to be towed. I had already called the towing co. "I could leave my car there all night, and I know it won't get towed!" I was asked to go inside by an officer who could see I had a reply about ready to explode from my mouth. I complied and then called everyone I knew with the city. I called Vaughn and asked him to come by in case I was going to jail. He called people too.
I think the officers gave me the benefit of the doubt. After some talking to by city officers (probably things like yes, Bryan has a temper, maybe that's why this building is no longer a crack house and maybe a city employee should not be threatening citizens. Just maybe, you think?) After that, he got in his car and left, obviously still fuming. Hopefully never to be seen around these parts again.
I saw one of the officers this morning while talking to sanitation officers about our dumpers in the alley. She asked if I was OK. "Happy as could be today," pointing to the garage cleanout.
This morning a city housing crew came by to clean out the garage. They removed three of these trucks full ...
When they got to the nest, they whacked some rats. An unpleasant game of Whack a Mole I imagined as I heard them yelling at each "he's over there, get that one!" A few escaped. I asked where. "They ran straight up the alley!"
The garage is now completely empty. I do not know if we can expect housing to come back to secure it or if that will be left to us yet again. If so, I will put a chain and lock on it. Someday I should send a bill to the city, but I wouldn't know where to begin.
The man's boss and his bosses boss called me this morning in a conference call. They seemed genuinely concerned and listened to my side of the story. You could hear the relief over the phone when I said I would not be pursuing this, though last night I had a great story idea for the newspaper. I saw the article "Baltimore's Public Servants?" And this time not referring to the mostly great officers we are lucky to have.
Regular readers here will remember that this place has been a warehouse of filth, trash and poison for a very long time. Clarence Weston, another choice city employee, did this when "complying" with his probation order.
See the archived entries for that period. It was not a fun time either.
This afternoon the odor of rat feces wafts though out the block yet again. Robert Duvall comes to mind from Apocalypse Now: It's "the smell of victory."
A small one at least.
Vaughn reminds me Spain is celebrating the 400th anniversary Don Quixote whom I suspect he thinks is my hero. I seem to have triumphed over this windmill. Unlike old Don, though, some of my villains are not imaginary. And some are supposed to be on our side.
Tuesday, May 17th, noon: Well, now I feel silly getting angry at the rock throwing kids in the first place. The Bolton Hill Bulletin Board has many recent entries about malicious kids in there area. They make ours sound comparatively good. Check out the entry entitled car break in, property destroyed.
There was also a posting about bullet holes in a questionable apartment house across from the Park and North Section 8 housing complex. It's posted today and entitled "bullet shattered doors...". We don't see many of those over here lately, unless you count the hole in the head of one of our long time drug dealers.
If I see the kid I cursed at again, I intend to apologize. I think they suspect we have police connections so I don't expect them to want to antagonize us, though I don't think the kid I spoke to would be so inclined. Maybe I'll offer them a freezer pop from the case we keep that the officers seem to like on hot days as a gesture. Probably be the beginning a regular thing, but I can think of worse scenarios. And I don't want to be the grumpy old Mr. Wilson of the block.
Out of control kids reminds me of the article today in the Sun. It depicts a horrible future for Baltimore with lots of fighting and killing. This quote bounced out at me.
"In Baltimore, "we knew there was a lot of interesting stuff that would fit into a horror game," said Richard Rouse III, a design director and writer for Surreal Software, the Seattle-based company behind the release. "The real environment is horrible, on some level."
I often think our drug dealing guys just consider their lives a super 3-D video game.
Monday, May 16th, 8pm: I have a confession some would think silly.
I had let the dogs out to play in the yard and gone back inside to find something. I heard a commotion and went outside to find about ten kids plunking rocks at the dogs. I demanded they not throw rocks in the yard, especially at the dogs. One kid said "I wasn't the one, you know I like them dogs." I assured him I knew that, though I wasn't sure. I tried to be patient but when the others started teasing the dogs and a rock flew over my head, I yelled "get the "_uck" off my property and stop or you'll be very sorry.
The nice kid looked at me disappointed: "What did you say?" I told him I was tired of the kids teasing the dogs and throwing rocks at her. He left with the others, telling his older sister "that man said the bad word."
I was angry. I lose my temper with politicians, bureaucrats, drug dealers and criminal landlords. Now I lose my temper with the good kids on the block. These guys were 7 to 10 years old. Just yesterday Vaughn got a wet paper towel for one of the kids who'd stopped to see the dogs. He'd scraped his arm while riding a bike. All the other kids wanted the same attention. They're starved for it.
And I lose my temper with them. What does that say for me?
I've apologized to adults I'm trying to work with for losing my temper even when I know they're dead wrong and some don't care at all. I've rationalized that it's a passion for things around here that's gotten us this far. But losing my temper with kids phased me. Even if I was provoked. Unlike the adults I've lost my temper with lately, these kids don't know any better. Though actually I think the one who took exception to my language does. I'd like to meet his parent(s). Someone taught him at least one value.
Too often around here no one teaches kids anything. They're not even around to feed them. That's why I wonder if we'll ever see improvement in the culture of this block and those many thousands like it.
Saw the Pedestal Gardens sitemanager and her boss at 1715-1717 today. With two others, most likely contractors. Noted they left via the alley on the other side of NIMROD. I might be cynical (dya think?), but I suspect it was to avoid having their pictures taken for the website with my commentary or more likely to avoid the dealers loitering on our side of NIMROD. Oh, well, sorry 'bout that. Little misses my attention around here. I didn't get a picture, but mug shots of drug dealers or just those who don't do their jobs around here aren't worth the trouble. We have so many.
Just called 911 on four dealers on the back of the school house, two of whom are having a loud argument. Got put on hold for a long 30 seconds. I imagined what each of those 30 seconds would mean if the emergency was life threatening. Almost felt guilty that there were so many other crises in town, but the recording tells you to not hang up. What I was seeing is so commonplace. I suppose the murder of the dealer a few weeks ago makes me nervous to see other dealers arguing. I don't know why I should care what they do to each other, but they're having this argument right on the school grounds. There are so many kids in this neighborhood. Kids who should have a chance.
As usual, the 911 operator asked me if this was a drug free zone. "Of course it is. It's an elementary school." There's a "drug free zone sign" not 20 feet from where they're hanging around dealing and arguing directly on the school grounds between our Pedestal Gardens building and the main PG complex.
When I hung up, I thought yet again I should have asked "what do the police consider Drug OK zones?" I guess we know which type of zone we live in.
No word today from the PG Security Consultant about a meeting. Perhaps he's read here and understands PG PR means nothing to me. He's new to this side of the game and likely has heard only property manager's side. That's sad. I hope he'll still call and address our concerns, but in the mean time, we're pursuing those so many other avenues to finally bring about the right changes at PG.
Monday, May 16th, 10am: Well, that doesn't happen too often, thank God. It was quiet out back and then all of a sudden the siren went off and a squad car flew out of here. With my window open, the echo from the alley was deafening. My coffee shook out of my hand. The dogs howled. Now, I hear paramedic sirens in the distance, too. I hope the officer had a chance to use the restroom. I should probably go down and check for a half eaten lunch, too, before the ants find it. It's about lunch time for the morning shift. They start early.
This sign went up last week in front of Pedestal Gardens building across the street.
As I've written earlier, property management have decided to install a fence to help control the property. City officers are mixed about the effectiveness of it. It will cost a lot of money. I'm guessing $100,000. We can hear the details of the plan at this hearing. Will it make a difference? I don't know.
Was walking past the main complex of PG a few afternoons ago. Stopped and watched the fence gate there. Lots of traffic in and out. Seemed no control. And this is right next to the on site manager's office.
Have noticed the entry door to the building across the street here propped open. No officers of any sort to be seen. Seems having the right people watching the cameras and visible security are essential, regardless of a fence. If no one's supervising the property, pouring more tax money into it will only be more waste.
When federal and city officers attempted to clean up the property early this year, 28 different people were found living there who did not belong. Yet I don't see the evictions. I wonder what on site management is doing with all the information they were provided at great cost to the police department and HUD? I suspect nothing. We can't keep asking others to fix the problems at Pedestal Gardens. There must be active, aggressive and effective supervision, not just cameras that don't get watched and officers who can't be seen.
Supposed to hear from the police officer/private security consultant today regarding a meeting about our observations. Hope he calls though I don't think there's really much to talk about: I don't see the officers and neither do the dealers. I don't know where they are. I wonder if he knows.
If the off duty officers are not working against the dealers on the corner of the school, bordered on three sides by Pedestal Gardens properties, then they are no better than the pizza parlor security company before them. I really expected better.
One of the regular customers of the crack apartment at 1700 just drove his huge dump truck up in front of the house. Hard to miss the rumbling noise and diesel fumes wafting through the window. He wandered down to the corner, looked down the Wilson Street side, looked in the vestibule, looked up at the windows, anxious. Then he walked back and drove away. He's early. The dealers aren't on their posts yet. I wonder what his boss would think of his driver doing crack on duty. I suppose it's no worse than the city snow plow driver who could plow his way to the front of the former crack house at 1704 during a blizzard to score, but couldn't clear the alley for the officers. Yes, in both cases I've watched the transactions first hand.
Called 311 to report the rat infestation and trash at 1704 again. Thanks to our neighbor across from the substation, Druid House, they got a good feeding again last night. City Sanitation Enforcement seems powerless to stop 'em. They've been trying for months.
Friday the 13th, 10am: Loud outside today. Seems everyone on the street is yelling at each other. Not necessarily angry, just loud. Maybe it's Friday the 13th syndrome.
Had a good talk with Officer Clark yesterday. He's the dirt bike officer whose been so effective and now Pedestal Gardens Security consultant. Didn't go well the first time 'round. I hung up on him. I felt he was being more Pedestal Gardens PR man than officer and lost my temper. He called back. I apologized profusely. I have large respect for Officer Clark as a city police officer. I don't think either of us is sure how to deal with the other in his role as PG Security Consultant. I'm going to meet both of him next Tuesday. He does not know the history here like I do.
Mr. Clark and I need to discuss the effectiveness of the off duty officers he's coordinating for PG. He said they were primarily concerned with the property they've been hired to protect. Sounds sensible. Problem is, that property is a proven magnet for drugs. Its owners have responsibility beyond their property lines for the effect they have on the entire neighborhood. This is the theme former CD Major Skinner emphasized when we met with HUD last December, prior to the outright assault his officers began on the crack infested apartments at 1715-1717.
I assumed off duty city officers, sworn to uphold and enforce the law, would have their eyes open, looking across the street, watching and responding to crime. The pizza parlor class security company they replaced had blinders on. I expect better from city officers on or off duty, but of course if they are being called elsewhere, what can we expect? It's long been determined (and supposedly agreed to by HUD and PG management) that 1715-1717 needs its own dedicated security officer. Only 24 apartments, but such trouble they can be when unsupervised.
He did tell me he has two officers and that 50% of their time is supposed to be spent at 1715-1717 Madison Avenue. That's certainly not the full time 100% coverage I recall HUD mandating. But there are four PG properties. Apparently, the remote one on the other end of Madison Avenue has been having problems now too. Our off duty police officer approach is being stretched too thin. And we know that the on site manager at the main complex requires her own personal security. Like me, she sees things out the window that distress her. That distracts these officers, too.
I've always found it a sad comment that the security people tell me they have to escort her to her car each night. If the site manager is so afraid, how must the moms and kids who actually live here feel?
I often find myself saying "but you don't live here" when talking to or arguing with irresponsible landlords, their minions or bureaucrats and politicians. Whether dealing or dumping, it's irresponsible property owners who are as much the problem as dealers and other criminals.
Wednesday, May 11, 10am: After a burst of business earlier in the week the trade didn't seem as brisk yesterday though the boys were on their posts. Someone reminded me the government checks have all been cashed and spent.
So the police department has distributed its answer to the Stop Snitching DVD that so clearly illustrated the contempt an entire culture of drug gang terrorists have for the law. Article in the Sun today.
I doubt the DVD will be of interest to the dealers constantly hanging out alongside 1700 Madison Avenue, where they have an apartment across from Eutaw Marshburn Elementary. The same ones who send their underlings into 1715-1717 regularly to reup. I do not see our off duty police officers on patrol there anymore. Doesn't mean they're not there, but I'd think they'd take an interest in the dealing just around the corner. Perhaps they could be curious about the Pedestal Gardens tenants walking over with cash tightly wadded in their fists and walking back with something else.
The Sun article again refers to intense enforcement areas in East, West and Northwest Baltimore.
"In East Baltimore, police are distributing note cards to suspects, informing them that they've been arrested in an area that's being swarmed by police. In West Baltimore, they are periodically closing down streets and stopping passers-by to talk. Also in West Baltimore, they started yesterday distributing fliers to announce the arrest of shooting and murder suspects."
It'd be nice if the intense effort in some areas wasn't allowing other areas to backslide. Might be fewer muggings in Bolton Hill if our manpower wasn't be deployed elsewhere. I really thought the drug dealer's murder a few weeks ago would have put us on the map. I guess we need more shootings for that. The obvious, incessant but usually peaceful dealing down the Wilson Street Drug Corridor isn't enough. I've already chided the Commissioner that I don't see it being "taken care of" as he promised me as we watched it in action from our doorway.
Governor Ehrlich is coming to the city to bash Mayor O'Malley again. Real tired of watching this tug of war and showboating. It's all about getting elected. Nothing about addressing the city's problems. I sure wish the $30,000,000+ surprise surplus was going to hire more officers. We need more troops on the street.
My comments about our Councilman drew some emails. I'm surprised. All of them were critical of him. Yet he was reelected. Someone must feel he's actually done something. Ah, but why would I be surprised at the results of an election anymore? National, state or city.
I seem to be in a politician bashing mood lately. Wonder where that came from? <g>
Amongst the ones I despise, my favorite dealer was here the other day. His product was even more colorful than theirs. The strawberries were delicious.
Monday, May 9, 2:30pm: Dealing around the block has been brisk today, already. I know many of the officers who have now rotated again to the second shift. I expect they will do the job needed, but they don't start till 3. The drug market opens officially as the closing bell sounds at the elementary school. Called the Major and our drug squad sergeant, emailed the commissioner.
Vaughn has a story to tell from his experience this morning ...
"I often tell Bryan that not all the yelling we hear in the street outside is bad. It's often the children screeching, something I enjoy hearing. Today, I heard something quite different. I was walking over to the market and watched as some of the attendees of the AA/NA meeting at the NIMROD center were chiding the guy sitting on the stoop at 1700 Madison Avenue. They basically said, "wearing that (I think his baseball cap), it's obvious what you're doing. You should quit now. When you get caught, and you're gonna get caught, you're gonna come down hard."
I can only assume they were referring to either getting locked up, or being shot. It is frightening to think that of the 300 plus murders we have every year in our city, almost all of them are young men involved in the drug trade. Then, there is the uncounted number of deaths from overdoses and other medical complications of drug abuse. If this is not considered a serious health crisis for a community, I'm not sure what might be.
Why do we just seem to accept this as a society?
We should have troops on OUR streets, fighting the war at home and treatment available for anyone who wants out. There are many who do, but see no other choice. There really are not too many choices out there."
I'm not the only one frustrated to see so little progress after so many promises.
Bolton Hill has a good bulletin board. It allows BHer's their own forum to complain and vent. For a few weeks, it seemed many of the postings were about the armed muggings and continued larcenies. Then came a posting from Keiffer Mitchell. Our Councilman ...
FYI - According to central district police, two suspects (ages 16 and 18) have been arrested and charged as adults for the recent crime incidents in Bolton Hill. At least one of the victims has made a positive identification.
There followed a posting by a young mom ...
Keiffer, you rock! Thank you so much for letting us know about this. I hate walking around in fear.
I found it a bit worrisome that she would now feel Mr. Mitchell had made her streets safe and commented on that, trying remind BHers that they live in the middle of a city with thousands of addicts and bounded on three sides by drug ghettos.
Mr. Mitchell took exception to my posting and wrote me directly ...
i read your recent comments on the bolton hill bulletin board. the information about the arrests made was not intended to solve all the crime in the neigborhood. i was only providing information. i am sorry to see that you took the information to spin it in a negative way toward me. if you have concerns about my representation as a member of the city council please feel free to call me at my office or at home (410) 669-5110.keiffer mitchell
Over sensitive, I thought. I wrote him back ...
"Ah, but it got your attention.
I do not spin. I'm not a politician.
The tone of your posting did seem to imply the problem was solved. The fact you posted the news, which was readily available, did imply you were taking some credit. Seems something the officers themselves, like their Major should do. It was their work. Rather like the proud posting by Sergeant Wimmer in our guestbook.
Your posting led a neighbor to post "You rock Keiffer...I hate walking around in fear." Clear, she thought the problem fixed. Problem is, no one in Bolton Hill or most other areas of the city should ever let their guard down.
I think you took my comments the wrong way though. I was merely making it clear the arrests of two teenagers had not ended the crime spree. Something proven by the muggings and other larcenies which continued happening immediately after their arrests.
Of course I have concerns about your work. I have concerns about everyone's work for the city. I live in a crack market which no one seems able to control. I seldom see any elected representatives do more than visit occasionally and say "we're going to do something about this."
The problems in your neighborhood of Bolton Hill are a direct result of its proximity to drug markets like ours and North at Park literally across the street. Until our leaders lead us to solutions, the murders, muggings and mayhem will continue.
I don't dislike you Councilman. I would like to see you take a stronger role in helping address the very clear problems in your district: landlords who harbor drug dealers, out of control subsidized housing, open air drug markets with no patrols, and many others.
I'd also like to see the sidewalks on my street tended to like those on yours. <g> I still cringe when I recall hearing you comment you didn't like the color of the new concrete. I've asked a dozen times over four years for our sidewalks to be fixed. Each time being told "next season." Ours are broken to pieces, impossible to shovel and easy to trip over for the kids going to Eutaw Marshburn. I wouldn't mind if the repairs were slightly mismatched. But then I don't live on Bolton Hill Isle.
And far more importantly, I'd like you to figure out how selling the crack house we closed down next door to investor speculators rather than directly to homeowner occupants serves this city or our neighborhood. And why it took two years.
I got issues. You got answers?
Our last exchange ..
"bryan,thanks for your email. i appreciate your candor. i will not go into detail my efforts as a councilman to improve our city. it is all a matter of record. i will continue to provide information to my neighbors and the 11th district that is given to me in my capacity as an elected official.keiffer"When you find someone in the way, the best route is to go around. I feel that way very much about certain bureaucrats downtown who still haven't moved (after eight months) on selling the houses on Linden Street to the cooperative looking to rehab and live in those derelict houses themselves.
"Sad. I won't bother (with) you again. Obviously, our concerns are not yours. And I won't bother going into the details of why that's obvious. Bryan"
I had always liked what Mr. Mitchell had to say. Say being the operative word. He's never done much that we've seen. Vaughn refers to it as resting on his family's laurels. I've spoken to his staff dozens of times, asking for specific help getting things done. No response from him, but Council President Dixon and the Mayor's office have often helped. I had thought the new district to which he was reelected included our area, but apparently KM cares little for those outside his well to do neighborhood. I won't be wasting my breath asking for his help again.
Monday, May 2, 10am: Last Wednesday's Community Council meeting was productive. Not that many in attendance, it seemed to me, but a good cast of characters nonetheless.
Major Sheppard read some statistics about crime being down again this year in our area. We keep hearing that, but statistics seldom impress me. Not seeing dealers or hearing about murders and muggings a stone's throw from our house would be more reassuring.
In some answers he as much as conceded that manpower had been diverted away from some areas which had seemed under control, though he insisted not to other districts. He noted that Dirt Bike Officer Clark had been out due to injury and that perhaps not coincidentally, there'd been a spike in petty larcenies and daytime muggings. I was glad to see P/O Clark there, though on crutches. I had been wondering about him. His dirt bike patrols through our sector had been very effective. Hard to run from a dirt bike able to jump curbs and get through alleys too filled with junk for a car to pass.
A representative from Heritage Crossing asked why her neighborhood didn't have a dirt bike. "I guess we're not as important as Bolton Hill?" she asked. Of course, our sector includes Pennsylvania Avenue, which all know is crime ridden.
It was announced that Baltimore had won ten "pod" cameras through a grant. Three of these will be deployed soon along the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. These are vandal resistant portable camera towers that can be remotely panned and zoomed from squad cars. They have been very effective in Chicago and we have high hopes for them here. Cameras are extremely effective. That's why we were lobbying Pedestal Gardens for years to get them for the problem building across from us.
Probably the best part of the meeting were the hallway mini meetings after. I met and was cordial with Don Miller, VP of IRM, the property management company for PG. We spoke of a new fence they're proposing with a single entrance directly across the street from our house. It will have a special passcard system and camera and could cut down on the dealer traffic across the vacant lot. I cautioned that some city officers are leery of fences around such housing because they can become a dangerous maze, but the proposed fence system does have some officers' support. I haven't seen the details yet. As I adjourned with Mr. MIller, I said I hoped this might be the beginning of a warmup in our relations. Now that they're finally making real changes, I'd prefer to work with them. Not that "dropping the bomb" was not an effective method of getting them to the table.
The seldom seen new security company has been replaced. Security for PG is now provided by off duty BCPD officers coordinated by P/O Clark. Couldn't be happier about that. Some of these officers are the very ones who've worked our area both in uniform and plain clothes. I'm reminded about a guestbook entry by one of those officers in response to a previous entry by one of the ineffective security guards ...
To that unknown officer if you are not motivated than you shouldn't be a police officer. You can't worry about management you have to go out and do your job. If you don't do your job than things will get out of control then your job will really be difficult. Pedestal Gardens is out of control. I never see any security or special police. The drug dealers are doing what they want because the security and special police are weak. They should hire city police to work overtime. The city police are the real police.
The cost for the off duty officers is about the same and of course, they're all commissioned, able to make arrests on, near or in pursuit. Something the dealers hate. This way, too, the middle man has been cut out. Used to be that our commissioned security officers made about $10 to $12 an hour and their uncaring, contemptible boss made even more. It's sad city officers need to work extra hours. I'd think a full week of being a city officer would be more than enough for anyone. I know I couldn't do it.
Vultures continue to swarm 1704. Since one has to have at least $366,772 in the bank or a line of credit, plus the purchase price to even bid, only investor speculators are looking at it. Few regular folk have that sort of money or they wouldn't be looking to live here. A steady stream of mostly out of town Mercedes and Cadillacs ...
The real estate agents tell them about the wonderful selling prices just across the street in Bolton Hill and north in Madison Park. They paint a great picture. Naturally, they're salesmen. The listing agent has become very bothered by me speaking to her prospects. She says I've said negative things. Imagine that. Like suggesting people drive to the south and west and look around the rest of the block. I don't want to discourage rehabbing and an owner occupant for 1704. Want nothing more. I just see lying to these prospects a great way to set them up for failure. And if they fail, like trying to rehab this house into three luxury condos for $180,000 each, then the city will have failed this block yet again.
I can tell the good prospects from the bad. The ones who don't care what the neighbors have to say obviously don't care about the neighborhood. If you were sincerely interested in a property, whether as investment or home, wouldn't you want to find out everything you could?
The deadline to submit offers on 1704 is this Friday. I guess one way or the other, someone will be buying it soon. Of course, soon, by DHCD's definition, is a year.
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