For suburban drug buyers looking to score dope off the mean streets of Baltimore, a more convenient location than Hollins Market would be hard to find. Just take the Beltway to I-395 to Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, take a left onto Lombard Street, then a right onto Carey Street and another quick right onto Hollins Street, and they're sure get served a little "Section 8" or "Sweet Dreams"--monikers for the drugs sold there. With the transaction over in a matter of seconds, they then can go right onto Carrollton Avenue, left onto Pratt Street, then right onto MLK, and, bingo, they're safely back in the anonymity of the interstate, a party waiting in their pockets. Unless, of course, they're so desperate they've already smoked, shot, or snorted the stuff before they hit the highway.
This used to be a nice neighborhood, and in many respects it still is. But for years now--many date it to the mass relocations of many nearby public-housing high-rise tenants in the mid-1990s--the Hollins Market area has been allowed to become an open-air drug market. This has happened while an increasing number of drug-treatment slots have opened at nearby facilities, and, simultaneously, a growing number of single-family homes have either been abandoned or converted to group homes for addicts seeking treatment services. Now that's a novel idea--put a whole bunch of addicts and treatment slots in the middle of an open-air drug market. That way, the key players in the neighborhood economy--drug dealers, drug-treatment providers, and real-estate speculators--can fuel one another's growth.
At least one homeowner and one renter on Hollins Street have been repeatedly threatened lately by the rotating teams of drug dealers that work the neighborhood. In one incident over Labor Day weekend, one drug dealer screamed threats as he tried to kick in the front door of a homeowner's house, and, moments later, another drug dealer slashed two of the same homeowner's tires. Three panicked 911 calls and 15 minutes later, a patrol car showed up in time to take the damage report. The next day, three drug dealers--including the tire slasher--were arrested for selling drugs to undercover police officers. After a daylong pause, when kids felt free again to play ball on Hollins Street and grandmothers could once more safely sit on their stoops, a new crew of dealers set up shop. They, too, may end up in jail. But the suburban buyers still will come, until the next Best Open-Air Drug Market takes root somewhere else.