Baltimore chief fights drugs - as officer and father

The Associated Press

NEW YORK- Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm has a special understanding of the city's drug problem: His 36-year-old stepdaughter is an addict living on the streets.

Hamm helped raise Nicole Sesker since she was 3. She has been fighting drugs at least since she was 17, and the police chief discovered she had snorted cocaine by reading her diary.

He has tried to help her kick the habit, but has concluded that his stepdaughter, whose mother died three years ago, must hit rock bottom before she will find the strength to change.

"When she gets sick and tired of being sick and tired, I'll be there for her," Hamm told The New York Times for a story in Wednesday's editions. "She's not there yet."

Hamm does not like to talk about his stepdaughter's problems, aides say. A police spokesman Wednesday said Hamm would not grant further interviews on the subject.

The commissioner's stepdaughter is typical of the city's legion of addicts: She's been arrested repeatedly for drug possession and has served time in a state prison.

Sesker is homeless and could not be reached for comment Wednesday. She told The Times that she loves her family and is ready to kick her addiction.

"I know he loves me and that when I need him he'll be there," Sesker said. "I love my family that much, that I wouldn't move in with them and require them to go through the struggle with me."

Hamm, 56, is a Baltimore native who came up through the ranks and was confirmed as police commissioner in March. He has used his position to test approaches to the war on drugs.

"The piece that we need now is the healing part," he told the newspaper. "We can do all the enforcement we want, but if we don't help people find work, find affordable housing, get treatment, we'll just keep doing what we're doing, locking the same people up."

Under a pilot program sponsored by Hamm, a team of police officers wearing "Get Out of the Game" T-shirts roams tough neighborhoods, approaching teenagers and young adults with an offer to help them in return for a pledge to stop dealing drugs.

Health officials estimate there are more than 40,000 addicts in Baltimore, and the city's murder rate is one of the highest in the country.

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