Pr. George's Set to Raze Much of Deadly Drug Market
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Half the homes are boarded up, windows are cracked, mattresses and beer cans litter the streets. The stories of the neighborhood are scrawled on its homes: "Mario R.I.P."
The 4700 blocks of Homer, Hudson and Huron avenues in Suitland are a thriving drug market, police say, an area so notorious that Prince George's County plans to tear down all the apartment buildings there.
Andre Patrick was fatally shot two weeks ago on Homer Avenue in what is still an unsolved crime. The 38-year-old from Temple Hills was the sixth homicide victim in the three-block area this year.
"It's the most deadly three square blocks in the county," said Lt. Robert Nealon, commander of the Prince George's police homicide unit. "Homer, Hudson and Huron have been extremely violent for years."
A major plan to revitalize the neighborhood has offered hope -- but also has added to the danger, for now. As the county buys properties and boards them up as part of the revitalization, the area has become more desolate, Nealon said.
And officials fear that there could be more problems, particularly for the neighborhood's youngest residents.
Several yards from the site of one of the killings, at the top of the block on Homer Avenue, is a new school, standing out like fresh laces on a ragged pair of sneakers. The $15.7 million Suitland Elementary School will open in three weeks as part of the revitalization.
To get to the school, some of its 600 students would have to walk through the violent stretch. The thought has prompted school administrators to consider busing all students to the school, regardless of how close they live.
"Safety will be a huge factor over there," Nealon said.
The county's revitalization plan for the area, called the Suitland Manor redevelopment, includes buying and demolishing all of the run-down apartments in a 33-acre area that includes Homer, Hudson and Huron avenues. Eventually, possibly by 2008, condominiums, apartments and retail will replace the blight.
Officials said they hope to have purchased all the homes in six months to a year. Then they will begin tearing them down. Within three years, they hope to have upscale housing and community services there.
The county has torn down several crime- and drug-ridden apartment complexes in the area in recent years, forcing drug dealers to relocate and battle for new street corners to sell their goods, investigators said.