Archived Journal Entries for October, 2003
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Sunday, 10/26, Noon:
This was the scene out my front window very, very early this morning. What used to be commonplace is rare now. City Officers came upon two individuals so high they couldn't drive. But apparently they were together enough to dispose of the goods. Good, proactive response by the officers, who included Lieutenant Bailey. PGP Officer Vogt was there as well. That way he can keep an eye out for them in future. The houses in the background are those which front on the 1700 block of Eutaw Place, including those fire damaged last year by vandals shooting fireworks.
One neighbor who lives in one of those houses reports he's had three car windows broken in three weeks. He's not so sure policing has improved under the new Commissioner or under the new Major. We've had some discussion of it on the Bolton Hill Bulletin Board and between ourselves. He's emailed the new Major with his concerns, at my suggestion. I expect he'll get a real reply soon.
However, the new Major became a new father last week. I'm sure he's a bit distracted but by the look of patrol work around here last night, I'd say he's got things covered. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Skinner. Not that he needed it, but I'm sure being a new father will literally bring home to him all the more the basic and essential work he and his officers do for all of us. We need to keep our families safe in their homes and neighborhoods, first and foremost of all social issues. It's basic instinct and sometimes, as in my case, inflames tempers and passions and enthusiasm.
The upcoming meeting between the Major, Lieutenant Bailey and the officers of the PGP will include two officers of the state's attorney's office to answer questions the officers might have about the authority of specially commissioned officers, what constitutes a good arrest, procedures between their agencies, etc. I want to thank the SAO for being so committed to helping our neighborhood.
City officer visits to the substation are down. Could be the intensified efforts in neighboring Bolton Hill or it could be my fault. Perhaps I should never have complained when the bad apples spent hours doing exactly what Officer Wilkes said they all would last October. According to a few officers in the know, the two who abused the substation to avoid work have been trying to invoke the legendary "thin blue line" for their colleagues. Junior officers on their shift, especially, are not visiting as often. It's got to be hard to cross officers whom you must rely on, even when they're wrong. Senior officers and Flex team officers continue to use the facility as it was intended.
I'm told there's a new Sergeant on what is now the morning shift. Hopefully she can put an end to this nonsense. Someone in the know told me the problem with that shift is that it has several officers coasting toward retirement, not wanting to make waves, not interested in doing their jobs beyond the absolute minimum and several very junior officers who take their queue from their seniors. Telling that this is the shift where I've seen and heard reports of officers sleeping in their squad cars. Seems a shame. I hope the new sergeant can find ways to motivate the senior officers better and protect the enthusiasm and ambitions of the junior whom I've often seen working very hard.
The Elk's Lodge Function Hall at the corner of Madison and Mosher continues to be, as PGP Officer Vogt calls it "a public nuisance." Last night, Foxtrot, several city officers and the PGP all had to disburse the crowd ... again. Large groups of drunken and loud party goers parade up and down the nearby streets at the 2am closing time, not willing to let the night end. Often they are mistaken for residents of Pedestal Gardens by the less observant neighbors, when in fact most eventually find their cars and drive off. Anyone can rent that hall and have their own private party there. Poorly supervised inside, obviously, and no private security is provided outside. This place is like so many clubs in town which claim they're only responsible for what goes on inside, if that. The rest of us, city taxpayers, should handle the problems they create outside. I'm glad to say that has not been the attitude of the Pedestal Gardens apartment community in the past year. In fact, its officers are often first to respond to problems at the hall since their property is directly across the street.
A few doors south, the owner of 1426 reported to police a break in at her house recently. City and PGP Officers met her there. Her chief concern seemed to be that someone broke in and documenting that for an insurance claim. No matter that the front windows are broken out and that the place is in shambles, debris scattered everywhere or the fact it's been open for weeks when dealers with keys weren't using the doorway. She said something to PGP Officer Brown about having some problems with tenants. Obviously in part because she didn't care enough to visit the property. Or, to give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she didn't know better. She did give officers here contact numbers. We gave her a copy of Sergeant Wimmer's observations about evidence of drug dealing and I included a note welcoming her to the neighborhood and offering to help her control that property in any way we can. An offer I often made to my neighbor, Clarence Weston. Again, property owners, whether residential or commercial, must be held accountable for the impact their property has on the community.
To hell with citing homeowners in Bolton HIll for painting a fence in their yard an unapproved color, or worrying about the fact I still have three boarded windows, or requiring homeowner/occupants to get hundreds of dollars worth of rubber stamped city approvals just to fix a kitchen. The first priority of housing inspectors and code enforcement should be identifying properties actively involved in the drug, prostitution and other criminal trades, whether occupied like 1704 Madison Avenue or abandoned like 402 Wilson Street, and acting quickly to close them down and punish the negligent owners. A Crack House Task Force could truly facilitate this work. It just isn't happening efficiently otherwise. Catching and finding responsible homeowners is shooting at a sitting duck. I'd like to see our resources concentrated against the irresponsible ones, who at best make themselves hard to find and who incubate the real problems in our city.
Thursday, 10/23, Midnight: Fear. That truly is the real problem with Baltimore. Fear is the reason huge areas of this city remain no man's land, ruled by drug gangs, the real terrorists of America. But there are different types of fear paralyzing our city. Some direct. Some insidious.
Tonight, in an email exchange, I lashed out against a subcontractor of a HUD property. A man content to provide mediocre wages to surprisingly effective employees at a premium price to taxpayers. Surprise surprise. And he's surprised to be called what he is, an opportunist. No one in this litigious society ever calls anyone to task, certainly not when it involves the government. I suppose the only ones who can are those like me who have nothing to lose and the stupidity to advertise it. Most in situations like mine are too afraid. With good reason.
But I do have a home, and a neighborhood of progress, to lose, and I'm fighting mad, damned tired of fighting petty security contractors of Section 8 projects concerned only with making their profits on the backs of underpaid guys who chase gun wielding thugs every day or wealthy patent attorneys who's only goal is getting rid of the poor folks so they can have better property values. I thought the real threat here at 1708 Madison Avenue was drug thugs. Boys with no morals. Boys who would wave their semi-automatic handguns at me, yelling "this is my neighborhood." The ones I see few and far between now.
Little did I ever realize the true problem, the foundation of the drug terrorist occupation in this city, is the attitude of bureaucrats, subcontractors, landlords and the like. "Baltimore is lost. It's a place for us to make money and/or justify ourselves." Just as I'm aghast at city council members who would ever think employing their relatives was ethical, I'm even more astounded at subcontractors of HUD, property management companies who think that leaving their employees hanging out to dry, with no proper means for backup while doing community police work, is acceptable.
One such subcontractor said in an email to me tonight that I should "settle myself down and cut the tantrums..." Gee, I guess my tantrums embarrass him. Like they embarrass the wealthy guy across the alley who wants to blame every one in the Section 8 building for every inconvenience he finds living in the city. God knows my tantrums do not embarrass me. They are the ones who should be ashamed.
You know what, I'll be damned if I'll apologize for my anger or what I might prefer to call my passion, in defense of this neighborhood. I sleep here, they don't. To them I say: To hell with you both. You're obviously not part of the solution and definitely a part of the problem. I've taken on drug dealers and other far more scary folk than you. And at least they were honest foes. The type to firebomb children in their sleep. I'll sleep better fighting you guys than the dealers, because your tactics are generally more civilized and predictable, but we will prevail. As I used to tell the dealers, give up now. 'Cause we'll win. And we are. Same is true with you.
Techbalt is making great inroads in a certain neglected block in Baltimore, just a brief bike ride away. Understandably, they're concerned about attracting too much attention to this block, lest vulturous real estate speculators come in to land bank and speculate at Techbalter's expense. Adam's taking lone credit for the desperate resurgence of the city is annoying, but he's proud of the progress a few of his friends are making on one block. He should be. And so am I. As I am every time anyone takes on an old house in an old neighborhood, rather than saying tear down the old, let's build new, as too many chant. I visited one Techbalt friend's house last weekend. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm. Still, nothing unique. Just people like me and many others willing to take the risk, to gamble that the city can be what it once was. A sure bet now if you ask me, but one that requires more than faith in some than in many areas of the town. The renaissance of Baltimore is not all about downtown, Canton, or Federal Hill. For the real groundbreakers and real progress, it requires a fortitude that only time can tell and the willingness to work to make a place livable yourself, not just grab onto other's efforts.
I'm here to say that you can stick it out. And most of my neighbor's agree. Even those who didn't know they're part of a fight, but are glad to see and live with the results.
Thursday, 10/23, 1pm: Received a check from the Baltimore Community Foundation to Teltronic of Baltimore for $250 to cover the cost of a month's rental of the PGP radios.
They learned about us thanks to Councilman Mitchell's office when he inquired if they could help us with this urgent problem: the lack of adequate radio communications for the PGP. That was months ago, but unfortunately they didn't have my contact information. There's been no real progress on this issue in the many months I've been working on it. The security company points to the property managers and they point back. Still no radios. That is, until we could stand it no longer and began renting them ourselves. No matter, having this month's bill paid sure helps the pocketbook. And we're very grateful to the BCF for the grant.
A new reader of the website, I might even call him a fan, has sent us a check for $75. John McGready lives here in Baltimore and says "I owe you at least this much for the amount of time I've spent reading your website! Keep up the good work. Thanks." That's very, very kind of you John and your donation most generous. I'd like to say it's going to go to something fun or interesting, but most likely it will be coffee and next month's gas bill. We're back to keeping the substation warm 24/7.
PGP Officer Tyler is working "stealth mode" this afternoon with a State Police officer concerned about the activity between the Pedestal building down near State Center. Another example of cooperation between officers. Last Saturday Officers Vogt and Melcher came upon a man who'd been hit in the head with a hammer on McCulloh and were first to render first aid and summon help. City Officers report that the pizza delivery driver kidnapping has been solved. Apparently the perpetrator has relatives who live at Pedestal and they were instrumental in his capture. This morning about 4am, Sergeant Kluver gave chase to a suspect across the street from Pedestal. He dropped a large hunting knife during the chase. The Sergeant lost the suspect, but better to get the knife, I think.
Just a sampling of the work PGP officers do in our community every day. Events seldom reported in the Sun.
City Police Major Skinner and the PGP officers are going to meet soon to work out long term protocols and procedures to further their remarkable cooperation in recent months. More of the PGP officers are in the process of getting their city commissions which means they will be commissioned by authorized by the same police commissioner, Mr. Clark. Their meeting to share information and get answers will only help things around here. Another sign of progress.
Officer Tyler just radioed me to say that he and the other officers "closed down a crack house" as a result of their sealth operation. The suspects they'd been watching confessed. A pleasure to hear good news over these radios. Congratulations to Officer Tyler and his State colleagues.
Friday, 10/17, 11pm: Got two emails in the past couple days from people concerned I hadn't made an entry since Monday. Just like old times when there was so much bad news to report here readers wondered if I'd become a crime statistic, finally. God knows, there have been times I seemed to be asking for it. Thank you for wondering Shannon and Jim. I'm pleased to say the reason I haven't been updating as often is the same reason I was considering stopping my "blog." Often, there just isn't that much happening here. And I'm glad for that.
Yesterday morning when I got up, I found myself going back through my entries for mid October of 2002. There was a tear or two. That was a bad time in Baltimore's history and my own. As I watched the news last night, I was interested to see the ceremony marking a horrible anniversary. I was torn between thinking the ceremony a bit hollow, political, and being happy to see the tragedy was not forgotten. I flinched a bit as the news announcer spoke of the "something good" that came of the massacre: $3,000,000 brought in from the Feds to fight "the problem" and that calls to the drug tip line were up. Unfortunately, I've heard repeatedly from reliable sources that was not the case until recently if at all. Calls plummeted. They might be coming back now, but for a while tip line operators were twiddling their thumbs. No one wanted to call and take a chance they'd end up burned alive. Who blames them?
At the city ceremony there was one statement I did agree with: The Dawson's are a symbol of today's Baltimore. The real Baltimore. The speaker wanted to canonize them as martyrs. I see no need for that. Their memory stands fine on its own merits. From all accounts, the Dawson parents were not perfect people. They had a past and a past makes them more real to me. But regardless of past mistakes, they were trying to make a life for themselves and their children. Apparently, they'd decided their kids would not make the same mistakes as they had and they would not be raised amidst the status quo, the entrenched drug culture that is so much of Baltimore ... if they could help it. Whether from the courage of righteous indignation and/or lack of money to move (like me), they chose to fight. If more of us would join that fight, especially those from neighborhoods where drugs are not a given part of life, fewer of us would live and die in fear.
The massacre of the Dawsons does not have to happen again. Unless we let it.
Baltimore is one big neighborhood with one huge problem. As more of us come to understand this fact, progress will be made. And not before. We must stop being neighborhood isolationists. There is no affluent part of Baltimore unaffected by the plight of its worst. "That would never happen in our neighborhood, we won't stand for it." Such sentiment has created the black and white, rich and poor, safe and unsafe, the borders that separate us which we wrongly call neighborhoods. Competing for city resources, including police, means we all suffer. We've got to work together.
Today I attended a meeting at HUD's offices downtown. Representatives of the Community Law Center were there, officials of HUD, City Police Major Skinner, representatives of IRM (the Pedestal Gardens property management company) and myself. The CLC was there on a fact finding mission at the request of a neighbor who lives in the 1700 block of Eutaw Place, directly on the other side of the 1715-1717 building. He maintains there has been no progress here, but didn't show up to make his case that the CLC should file a drug nuisance suit against Pedestal Gardens to close it down.
So, the rest of us who cared enough to show up, discussed the enormous progress of the neighborhood in the last year. I was pleased to report that while I agreed with HUD's pronouncement last year that the Pedestal Gardens building was out of control then, it is now. Thanks to the teamwork of the city police and the PGP. I presented the PGP arrest and incident reports since January. Impressive. 100 arrests. 98% of those suspects did not live in the community. Not surprising to those of us who understand that Pedestal Gardens is not the problem here, the problem is protecting its residents. And the PGP have made huge progress there.
Major Skinner agreed about the progress, saying that "Pedestal Gardens is heading in the right direction." He voiced concern over a 5% increase in calls relative to the property, but noted a 25% decline in crime reports in the area. I remarked the 5% increase in calls is because residents of Pedestal Gardens are not so afraid to call police anymore and that the decrease in crime has a lot to do with the PGP. He wants the property to be 99% self sufficient as far as security. As a taxpayer, I agree with that. A private property, whether apartments or entertainment establishment, should not be a burden on the city. He proposed, and IRM management readily agreed, that the Major and PGP should meet to better coordinate their effort. I hope that an attorney of the State's Attorney's Office can join them and will help in any way I can.
I stapled a letter from Patricia Jessamy's office to PGP Sergeant Kluver on the top of the PGP crime stats. He's been invited to attend a ceremony to receive the State's Attorney Citation next month. Obviously, the State's Attorney is impressed with him and his team's work, too.
I was prepared, had spent hours, ready to counter every specious argument of the selfish Eutaw Place complainers. I was disappointed they didn't show. Perhaps they got wind I would attend, that the "closed" meeting would have balance. I can't blame their rep for chickening out. He would have been humiliated by the facts. This is a group who's only real goal is the demolition of the Pedestal Gardens Community and the development of the property as a new Spicer's Run. All for the purpose of increasing their own property values, nothing more. To hell with the people who live in the community, they say. Actually don't say publicly. But their Machiavellian tactics are obvious, especially when one refers to their emails which I was privy to while I mistakenly thought we had the same goals: "I do not have that concern for them...it is clear the residents [of Pedestal Gardens] are so irresponsible, they have forfeited their right to receive governmental benefits that allow them to live in this or any other reasonable community." I guess he means they belong in prison, moms and kids.
In the same email I quoted at the meeting, the author implies all the women who live there are whores, and goes on spewing vitriol about people he does not know or care about. They're my neighbors. Apparently I understand them, perhaps because I've tried, and that's why I take attacks on them personally.
This is the same man who said to me last year that the vandalism against the apartment houses on Eutaw, which back against the 1715-1717 building, was "our September 11th" and that it was "a terrorist firebombing conspiracy" by the Pedestal Gardens residents. Complete B.S. And he knows it. Or should. I still wonder if he laments saying that. For his sake, I pray to God he must, considering the month after he said this we learned what a real drug terrorist firebombing can be. A year and a day ago.
I'll stop bashing this unnamed "community activist" now, except to say I wish he and his group had helped our effort against a real plague, 1704 Madison, but as an officer of IRM said to me in the men's room after our meeting, helping us on that issue "wouldn't have served his purpose." This guy was happy to see a thriving crack house across the street contribute to the problems of Pedestal Gardens. Anything to further the selfish agenda.
I think he and his group have finally exhausted any credibility they might ever have had with the Community Law Center, HUD, the Baltimore City Police or anyone else who matters. I wish they'd join the effort now to make the neighborhood a better place for those who live here and stop trying to dictate who should. You won't believe it, and neither will they, but I would welcome their help.
And now a word of advice for Baltimore crime buffs: When you hear the Foxtrot police helicopter, do not look to the sky like a turkey, beak up to the rain, ready to drown. I have written this having to look around the center of my line of sight because of the hole burned by the ten billion quadrillion candlepower seachlight Foxtrot uses while looking for what or whomever. I was in the yard with the dogs and looked up, wondering where it was going, hearing the throp, throp, throp get very close and then suddenly, the dogs and I were bathed in an intensity of light that might have appeared to make us transparent or to be beaming us up to the mother ship. Now that would be high tech policing! The dogs were not so stupid, keeping their noses to the ground, sniffing for rats, unphased by a noise they're used to. Still, I'm always pleased to see Foxtrot, though now I wonder if I will ever see anything properly again. The noise of Foxtrot is a good reminder of the men and women working to protect us. Just be careful not to stare. <g>
Monday, 10/13, 2pm: Dealing and other crime in this area is still way down, even though I feared I would jinx it by pointing it out. It's been months since I've heard anyone yell "greens out, greens, greens, greens!" hawking their little green topped crack vials. The sidewalk isn't littered with them again every morning either. Readers will recall this was constant and commonplace here. As I've said, this is thanks to more effective deployment of city officers targeting drug markets and hard work on the part of PGP.
PGP Officer Tyler reports today that he sees the same gang of dealers, the ones who have been trying to operate on Madison across from the main complex, now over on Druid Heights Blvd. Apparently retreating back to there. He said he hates to think they're just pushing the problem away. But that's their job. I told him as I always respond to such short-sighted criticism from those who've belittled our efforts here: Individuals can't fix an entire city at the same time. All you can do is hope that the neighborhoods you push it to will have residents who care enough. Intimidation and acceptance are what these boys rely on. With the PGP's help, people in this neighborhood don't accept it anymore and we're not nearly so afraid.
Last night Sergeant Kluver arrested two more crack customers as they came back to the community from Druid Heights. One of the suspects was carrying a large knife. Yet another weapon off the street thanks to PGP work. And another two persons who will think twice about bringing crack into the area.
I know there are a few tenants and their mothers who hate this progress. One African American woman berates Officer Tyler, who is black, for being on the side of the white man. Sergeant Kluver is white. I think Officer Tyler resents her hiding behind the race card. He works hard and makes a living for himself without selling crack to kids, as her son has been caught doing. Apparently her comments included a complaint that the neighborhood hasn't been the same since "that man" moved in, gesturing to this house. Now, ma'am, I can't take all the credit, I'm just a squeaky wheel.<g> To those who agree with her, let me say I would be just as down on the pasty white crack dealers of Highlandtown if I lived there. Crack is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Officer Tyler and Sergeant Kluver are appearing in court on Wednesday in the case of a dealer they caught with his customer, a perfect catch. The customer fingered the dealer. They're always happy to catch the dealers, but they're far more clever than most crack craving customers: Not exchanging money and product at the same time, using intermediaries, often the same kids acting as lookouts on bikes. And the Sergeant says this one has a good lawyer, too. Just a cost of doing business I suppose. The entrepreneurial spirit and resourcefulness of our street dealers is an inspiration to us all.
But the police in this area are becoming more innovative, too. Changing tactics, working more closely between departments like the city, school, housing and Pedestal Gardens police departments. And the effect is showing. Whether this effectiveness is part of the reason Reservoir and Bolton Hill are seeing a spike in muggings, I don't know. Could be. But I have faith increased police work and more watchful residents in those neighborhoods will be effective, too.
Friday, 10/10, 9pm: I was wrong to point to Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, DHCDC, as owners of 1426 Madison Avenue. I could swear it showed up three weeks ago on SDAT as belonging to them when I ran the addresses. Today, it was pointed out to me the record shows it belongs to a Kelly Waddell, LLC. His or her or their mailing address is listed as the crack house, 1426. The only "K. Waddell" in Baltimore has a nonpublished number. A circle of anonymity for the owner of a crack house. How curious.
However, DHCDC did buy 1420, 1422 and 1424 from the same company that owned 1426 five years ago. DHCDC purchased these three properties from Hode #1 Realty Corporation for $75,000 each last August. They're boardups. worth little more than $20,000 if that, appraised for $19,000. Kelly Waddell, LLC bought 1426 in July of last year for $19000. Strange. But not stranger than the building you can find dealers hanging out at every night at 1512 Madison Avenue which was purchased by a Martin Property Management LLC for $225,000. It had been purchased for "$0" in 1998. It is city appraised for $14,100. Any theories about what's going on here?
I wish it had been the property of DHCDC. They would have taken care of it. Now who do we get to secure this property causing such obvious trouble? I've emailed city code enforcement suggesting they block it up and pop a lien on the property until someone responsible steps up. In the meantime, city and PGP officers are expected to deal with the dealers who have free run of this property, risking officer's lives and/or wasting their time chasing dealers through the property, especially when it has multiple escape routes and hiding places.
For more information on 1426 Madison, check out this link: http://rebuildingmadison.info/1426/index.htm. I'm going to keep the fight on that property covered there.
PGP Officer Tyler introduced me to his brother yesterday. He's a Baltimore City Officer assigned to the Eastern District. We talked about the audacity of drug dealers who would take down boards and put up their own door as they have at 1426. He had one better. He told us of a crack house they'd raided where the dealers put in new carpet, heat and light, furniture, even a Playstation and a hole in the wall to the adjacent boarded up house hidden behind a chalk board. Must be in the drug dealers handbook: take over a boarded up property. No one will complain, BGE will turn on the gas and electric for anyone and everyone will either think you own the property or be too afraid to turn you in. That way you get your base of operations, the place to store inventory and package your retail. Crack houses are the essential tools of the trade for the drug business.
This week officers of the PGP handled the matter of a juvenile in a Pedestal Gardens building with a butcher's knife, threatening others. They and the city police called the 16 year old's mother who took her home. I asked if that seemed adequate and they said the mother was very angry at the quote "child" and that there was nothing else they could do. I don't know. Seems to me a 16 year old girl wielding a butcher's knife needs to be brought before a judge with her parents, put on probation, perhaps referred to counseling, and the parents need to be held accountable. Too often in this city, juveniles get away, truly and literally, with murder. I do not understand why it seems police officer's hands are tied if the criminal is under age. There is a big difference between under aged young people and children. As I wrote last year, I watched as nasty, mean drug kingpins came to supervise their bicycle riding dealers, many of whom were underaged. Even if just 17, they had the advantage.
Speaking of kids, I was concerned about the dogs barking about 1 this afternoon. Figured it was a cat or a rat hiding in my truck, parked in back. A city school police squad car crept up and parked and the lady officer inside, said "come out now." A youngster, about four and a half feet tall stood up as the officer came out of the car to put him in the back seat. First time I've ever seen that. Truancy is a problem. And something parents should be responsible for. If Johnny isn't in school, he's prime pickings for crack dealers like Lamar or Quentin and other would be father figures who show them the easy route to money: working for them, selling drugs.
PGP Sergeant Kluver radioed me a few nights ago, asking for city police backup on an arrest at Laurens and Madison. It was 3am. He thought he'd seen a deal go down but lost the dealer. The buyer appeared to have a puppy with her. Sure enough, she had the drugs she'd just bought on her, but it wasn't a puppy she was carrying around ... it was a tiny infant. Officers called the father and waited for him to come take the child. I'm not sure that was the right response. What father would allow his child to be carried around by the child's mother at 3am while she shopped for crack. On the other hand, he did come. That says something. Perhaps it will be a wake up call to him if he cares. Let's pray so.
I've often criticized the owner of the security guard company that cuts the checks for the PGP. I'm still amazed he's not done anything to equip his officers with decent radio communications, even after his self imposed deadline of September 30th. He lets them work with no lifeline whatsoever most of the time or did until we began providing a system out of sheer desperation and a sense of decency. However, I was pleased to hear he's loaned one of our officers $400 to fix his car so he could make it to work here. When you're paid $8 an hour, it's hard to pay for a car, certainly not unexpected repairs. How kind of him to loan the guy the money. Such a kindness to take the loan back in chunks from the employee's check. Especially considering he has trouble finding people willing to work here for the peanuts he pays. It's a rare person who values their contribution to this community enough to work here for his pitiful wages.
We've requested all available information, including contracts and regulations regarding Pedestal Gardens and HUD under the Freedom of Information Act. Hopefully, it will give our lawyer's looking into it some insight as to who's really responsible for this huge lack of support for police officers working so hard and doing such good work protecting our neighborhood.
Tuesday, 10/7, 2pm: Sunday afternoon Vaughn came home from church and told me three squad cars were in the parking lot of the substation, one with its hood up. I hadn't noticed, officers come and go there so frequently. I went down and found one officer in the restroom, another grabbing a bottled water and the other pouring water into the radiator tank of the cruiser.
He was using the pitcher from the blender an officer donated who mixes his protein shakes in it. This officer said "I hope you don't mind..." I replied, "Of course not, I just wondered if I could help. Didn't know you had to do your own car work." I think they didn't want to take the time to turn it in. The other officers wanted to make sure he didn't get stranded. They were all off in a few minutes.
Interesting exchange in the guestbook. One entry from a new reader who doesn't understand the situation with the radios yet. I sure don't understand why this situation can't be solved either, but he hadn't read back far enough. He got a succinct answer from a regular reader. I did spend an hour yesterday with a HUD official discussing our frustration with the situation. They promised to look into it. We're also getting copies of the contracts between IRM and HUD under the Freedom of Information Act. Interested what their obligations might be to those they put in harm's way protecting their complex. Whether it's IRM's or SPS's fault or both doesn't matter. The PGP still go without the offered link to city police they need.
Just last night I got a call about 3am from Sergeant Kluver that he needed a city officer to assist with an arrest. I called 911 as always and explained he needed a city officer. Unfortunately for this time, it got dispatched as a Signal 13. Foxtrot and several officers responded quickly. While it's gratifying they're anxious to help a fellow officer, I felt badly to have alarmed them. Wouldn't happen if the special officers could speak to the Central District desk sergeant directly. And I'd be sleeping through the night more. Not that I mind, Sergeant Kluver, being out in the cold at 3am with drug dealers and burglars is a bit more to ask than waking up to make a call. After all, before the PGP were here long hours and in force, I was often awakened to fights between dealers and the ever constant "greens out, get your greens here."
We loaned the PGP a computer for their use in the new office they have at 1715 Madison. They're going to use it to file their daily reports and logs and to access the warrant database. More than once they've been able to arrest persons wanted on warrants city officers could not confirm from one of the PGP officer's laptops. They're also going to use it for digital photos of suspects (and their cars) they question and/or arrest to alert the other officers. Very professional. We hope it will help.
Sunday, 10/5, 1pm: The matter of those few officers abusing the substation has been put to rest. They will not be using it again. Hopefully, I haven't scared off any other officers who use it properly. The Major felt it was a bit harsh to post a notice to specific officers, so after he assured me they had been informed, I was glad to remove the flyer. That these specific officers were abusing the break room was not news to their colleagues. Several came and went while these guys were goofing off. Still, it cheapened the project to highlight the few bad apples. I think everyone's aware now that the place is supervised, and that's fine.
PGP Officers Vogt and Melcher radioed me Friday night while chasing a burglary suspect into the Pedestal Gardens building on the 1600 block of Eutaw, near the Savalot. They were running hard, breathless. I called 911 for them requesting assistance. City officers and Foxtrot responded fast and in force. Unfortunately, the suspect got away, but he lost his truck. Or should I say the truck he was driving. Turned out to be stolen.
Police suspect this man has been "working" Bolton Hill lately. Seems to like the affluent areas where there's so much to choose from. Please be on the lookout and call 911 if you see him.
Late the other night, Officer Melcher alerted me to an open garage in the alley across from the Pedestal Gardens building here on the 1700 block. One of the fine homes fronting on Eutaw. A nice Volvo sitting there, unattended, asking to be broken into. He knocked on the front door but got no response. Later it was closed. Good that PGP officers are keeping their eyes open around the entire neighborhood.
Bolton and Reservoir Hillers know there's been a spike in burglaries and muggings. Hasn't happened nearly so much over here, but we're poor. Not much to steal. A friend attending a party in Bolton Hill last night told me he saw several squad cars and officers on foot, patrolling. I know city police are trying to be more visible.
Of course, we have to remember, we live in the inner city. Lock your car. Remove all items even of remote value. I have a buddy who's car window was smashed for the quarters he uses for parking meters. When walking, be aware of your surroundings. Recently, a young MICA student was moving at 1am. She was accosted, the van with her belongings was stolen. 1am is not a smart time to be alone. We have to be cautious.
Thanks to Ken of Spicer's Run for the care package in the substation this morning. He has a key and drops supplies off regularly on his shopping day. Paper towels, toaster pastries, grape soda and even some frozen TV dinners and burritos. We don't cater officer's lunches, but several times I've found an officer eating a microwaved burrito or TV dinner, grateful he didn't have to drive or walk out of his sector for a snack. Sometimes, too, it's a couple days to pay day and lunch money is sparse. That's been the case with one or two rookie city officers, I'm ashamed to say, but certainly is true of PGP officers who make less than $10 an hour. I'm always happy when I can say grateful neighbors provided it.
I guess it's time to put the toaster back in there. I think I'm going to buy a new toaster oven instead. We're going through coffee and hot chocolate and microwave popcorn pretty fast too. Foot patrol through 43 degree nights is chilling. When I make coffee there in the morning, I'm always gratified to see the thermos nearly empty from the batch I made before going to bed. I like the thought of officers out there while we sleep, high on caffeine and carbs, awake and alert. If you'd like to contribute, please check out the Help page and/or email me at Bryan@RebuildingMadison.info. We really appreciate the help, like when we ran out of bottled waters the other day and Davis, another of our Spicer's Run neighbors, emailed to offer a couple cases he'd stocked up on in preparation for the hurricane.
Thursday, 10/2, 3pm: A new month. Fall is here. The smoke alarm batteries need changing. The leaves are just starting to turn color. The first frost warning is on for tonight. Football season is in full swing. And a couple bad apples have turned up.
Readers here know I am a constant and strong supporter of the city police. I believe they do a very tough, tedious job and that by far most are dedicated and hard working. My experience and daily exposure to them over the past year has only confirmed that. They are the front line troops we rely on every day.
But in every organization there are the bad apples. Lately, certain officers have taken to abusing the substation. Long lunches, naps, watching the football game for hours on end. And it makes me very angry. Angry they would abuse the convenience. Angry they would jeopardize it for their colleagues. And angry they would put me in the position of having to police the policemen.
Yesterday, I was speaking with CD Major Skinner and named names. I had promised then CD Major Gutberlet back in October that I would report any abuses to him immediately in return for his endorsement of the station. I only had one occasion to do that.
I had warned an officer that the substation was not a place for a nap and asked him to keep his muddy boots off my chairs. A few weeks later, I heard snoring from the substation and saw the car which I had noticed was the sleeper from the time before.
This was a good officer generally. I've seen him do good work here, including backing up the PGP guys. I called the Major and told him I wasn't trying to tell him his job, but that this officer had been sleeping for an hour and half and needed a talking to. Major Gutberlet arranged an impromptu meeting with the sector lieutenant and Integrity Officer. They snuck up on the substation, opened the door suddenly and found the sleeping officer still there, an hour later (hour and three quarters nap total), rubbing his eyes, gun belt over a chair, shoes off and lights out. According to the Major, he said something about having a headache and left looking shocked. The Major assured me he felt this was action enough. Seemed a classy, understated way of dealing with the matter. It gave me more respect for the Major. I believed it was all the message this otherwise good officer would need.
A couple weeks ago he could not pry himself away from the football game on TV. Over two and a half hours of his shift was spent watching the game in three visits. And that's just what I observed, he could have been here longer. I was outraged, beside myself with anger and indignation. Finally, after yelling rather loudly at Vaughn about the nerve of a certain officer, in hopes he'd overhear it, I persuaded Vaughn to go and speak to the him. I would not have been nice about it. Apparently he did overhear my ranting because as Vaughn got to the door the officer left.
I've removed the TV.
Most officers if they turned on the TV at all did so to see the weather report or the news while wolfing down their lunch. That's what it was there for. I recall officers on foot patrol watching news of the blizzard while thawing out their hats and shoes. It seemed a useful thing.
The sleeping officer must have mentioned the TV and cozy digs to his like minded colleagues. All of a sudden, two officers began using the substation. Officers I had never seen use it before. Not surprisingly, the only two officers I've found to be useless, incompetent and lazy. Let's call them H & H for lack of a better name. They're always together. And lately they've been together taking long leisurely lunches in the substation and watching the games for way too long as well.
They won't be doing that any longer. I've posted a notice on the door they no longer have permission to use the facility and that if they do, I will prosecute them for trespassing. Five officers have asked me what happened and I told them, just as I've told Major Skinner. Officers I know are not surprised. H & H have a bad reputation with their colleagues for avoiding work. Apparently they thought I would allow them to avoid it here.
According to PGP Officers, H & H were recently told not use the break room Pedestal Gardens had for them anymore either. For the same reason. Excess time away from work.
I wonder if the residents of Bolton and Reservoir Hills find it acceptable that these officers work so hard avoiding their jobs. It seems to me that assuming it is a slow day for calls, they should be on patrol, watching for the car jackers, rapists, muggers and burglars that have been plaguing these neighborhoods recently. Perhaps discouraging them just by their presence. That's the purpose of the substation, to keep them in their sector, on the beat. They don't have to drive away for a decent bathroom or place to eat their brown bag lunch. The good officers get back to work sooner because of the substation.
H & H have shown their character before. Last October, Vaughn and I saw a man beating a woman to the sidewalk. Vaughn called 911 while I ran out to the street. He had been pummeling her with closed fists and only stopped because I threatened him physically. They went to their apartment at 1700 Madison. When police arrived, we pointed to their door up the stairs. The officers came back down moments later saying the woman would not open the door and yelled she did not want the police so they shrugged their shoulders and left. We did not feel this was adequate police work. At the very least, we felt the officers should have insisted she open the door if only to verify the boyfriend wasn't coercing her. Officers have since said to me that they would have considered arresting him based on two eye witness accounts of the assault.
We dialed 911 to complain about this inadequate response. A half hour later, one of the H's came to the door supposedly to investigate our complaint. We explained what we'd seen. Officer H was defensive, belligerent and arrogant. I recall telling Vaughn as they argued that he should save his breath, obviously this officer was a waste of time. Vaughn remembers clearly the officer telling him "if you don't like it, move to the county where you belong." I remember the officer asking for our ID's and birthdates apparently so he could run us through the computer. Vaughn complied. I did not, ignoring his unwarranted request, going back inside my house, effectively ready to challenge him.
Then, a few months ago, Sergeant Kluver and Officer Vogt of the PGP joined me in searching through the crackhouse at 1704 for the people I'd seen using the vacant and open apartments there. Sergeant Kluver found a man and woman smoking crack in the second floor, rear apartment. Being a sworn, commissioned officer, he arrested them while I called 911 for backup. H & H arrived a long time later. They obviously didn't like being disturbed by having to do police work. No doubt the H I knew remembered me. I remembered him. They suggested to Sergeant Kluver that they should arrest me for trespassing. The Sergeant apparently told them that I was there as a good Samaritan helping them do their work and to close down a crack house where the owner was clearly violating his terms of probation. He wasn't about to support such an arrest. They left then, leaving the PGP officers with two suspects, something I have never seen other city officers do. They always stay with the PGP until the wagon arrives to take the suspects away.
As I said, yesterday I named names to Major Skinner. Last night, one of the H officers parked in front of the house, avoiding another city officer who was talking with Sergeant Kluver about a matter at 1715. He parked there for some time, making me nervous. Finally, he got out of his car and put a ticket on Vaughn's car directly in front of the house. Vaughn's tags expired last month. He absolutely deserved the ticket, but obviously this was just the best retaliation H & H could muster for our ratting them out.
Funny that the only proactive police work I've ever seen from H & H was to ticket a car they knew belonged to Vaughn. During those tough times when I was calling 911 constantly I gave up when H & H were on because if they responded at all, they only drove right on through, doubtless telling dispatch there was nothing to see. Other officers almost always stopped persons we'd described, conducting field interviews, finding people carrying crack and making arrests.
I have written Major Skinner making a complaint and detailing the same incidents. I've asked him to speak to these officers to advise them they are not welcome here in the substation. I've asked him to reassign them, perhaps to foot patrol downtown, on separate shifts where it would be harder for them to avoid doing police work. We sure as heck don't want or need them around here.
That's where it stands now. I'm sure the Major will be getting back to me. I sense he will be at least as offended as me. Hopefully, that will be the end of the matter. I do not take lightly making enemies of city officers, but neither will I accept them using their position to take advantage of us all. I know several other officers agree.
On to a much more pleasant bit of news. We've been having trouble with 1709 McCulloh for about a year. A crack house not unlike 1704. Last night, Organized Crime Division task force raided the house, finding 100+ vials of crack, heroin and other drugs and arresting five suspects. Turns out Carlton Douglas who lives and works out of 1701 had spoken to the Major yesterday about that very house. I emailed the Major this morning thanking him and his team for this very useful effort. Here's our exchange ...
-------- Original Message --------
>>> Bryan Taylor <Bryan@rebuildingmadison.info> 10/02/03 01:12PM >>>
According to Sergeant Kluver of the PGP
<http://rebuildingmadison.info/players.htm#SPS>, OCD officers raided
1709 McCulloh last night, netting 100+ vials of crack, other drugs and
five suspects. He helped supervise the suspects while the evidence was
I spoke to Mr. Douglas who lives at 1701 shortly after. He told me he
had spoken to you yesterday about this property and the problems it's
We're both very thankful for this effective action.
The house has been a problem for some time. Carlton sees the dealing out
of it, I hear the noise at all hours, the arguments and fights. Just a
couple months ago, we put a stretch of fence across the alley access to
the back of this house to cut down the dealer traffic. This forced them
to operate more in front where Carlton observed them with his camera system.
Crack houses and property owners who allow it are a huge problem. We
want to work on getting something set up to address them directly,
taking action beyond what your officers did last night: closing down
such houses or at the very least forcing landlords to supervise them
better. Details of what we're working on can be found here:
Again, thank you very much. Please convey our thanks to the officers
1708 Madison Avenue
The Major's reply ...
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: 1709 McCulloh Street Date: Thu, 02 Oct 2003 13:51:04 -0400 From: John Skinner <John.Skinner@BaltimorePolice.org> To: <Bryan@rebuildingmadison.info>
Thanks for the support. I am also in the process of targeting this house as a nuisance property. I am planning on charging the owner for the continuous problems we are having there. I will keep you posted.
"Charging the owner." Music to my ears. My house does not harbor crack and heroin dealers. Likely yours doesn't either, whether income property or not. It is not too much to expect other property owners to do the same. We must target these crack house owners and hold them responsible for the harm they allow.
I'm writing letters to the owners of 1426, 1512 and 1700 Madison Avenue today. Putting them on notice that what happened to 1704 can happen to them as well. With what we learned there, I think we could be formidable foes to other crack house landlords. These are properties creating big problems for our officers, the ones who are doing their best and sometimes, as with last night, winning. We will continue to do what we can to support their work, whether providing a toilet, reporting drug dealing, or pursuing negligent property owners in any way we can.
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