At 10 p.m. on a Friday, Barbara Miller and her 16-year-old daughter arm themselves with CB radios and climb into their blue Toyota Tercel.
Heather Fulton, a junior at Arundel High School, is giving up a night she might normally spend at a party or the movies with friends to be her mother's security patrol partner and cruise the mean streets of suburban Crofton.
"If she's going to do it then I have an obligation to do it also," Fulton says. "I hate to give up a Friday night, but I don't like the crime here either."
Miller and Fulton are two of 65 Crofton Mews residents who have formed a security patrol to help stop crime in their neighborhood.
The patrols began Oct. 19, about a month after one woman was killed and two others were raped, chilling neighbors in this quiet community off Route 3.
"People who live in the neighborhood know who belongs here and who doesn't," says patrol coordinator Chuck Gallina.
Each night two patrols -- a pair of residents on foot and another pair in a car -- cruise the community, communicating by citizens band radio with a fifth resident at a base station.
"We keep a vehicle log and an incident log," says schedule-keeper Peggy Ingram. "If something happens, we can go back through our logs and see if there is any relevant information."
A condominium community of 390 units, Crofton Mews sits near the Prince George's County line. That location offers car thieves, burglars and, more recently, rapists and killers an easy way in and out of the community.
The Mews condominiums range in price from about $80,000 to $100,000. The neighborhood, filled mostly with young families and white-collar professionals, is one of several communities in Crofton.
Crofton Mews residents were shocked when a member of the community, Gwyn Dixon Criswell, 41, was killed and her body dumped in the woods behind a shopping center near the intersection of routes 3 and 424. County police charged Steven Gregory Anderson, 29, with first-degree murder.
Shortly afterward, Stanley Glenwood Prout, 29, of no fixed address, was charged with raping a woman who lived in Crofton Mews. Police say Prout followed the woman's roommate home and broke into her first-floor condominium.
"The rape is what brought a lot of things to light," Ingram says.
The Crofton Mews Board of Directors conducted a meeting and began the security patrols with 25 volunteers, 21 of whom were women," Gallina says.
"When I heard about the murder and then one of the rapes was on my court, I was scared. It really shook me up," says Barbara Miller, 41.
Miller, who works as a bookkeeper in Prince George's County, said she moved here with her daughter because she thought the schools would be better.
"I was used to hearing about things like that at school in PG," Heather says. "But not around here."
County police helped the residents establish patrols, giving them the do's and don'ts of civilian policing.
"Their goal is to reduce crime with communication between the department and the community," says county police crime prevention Officer Guy Della.
The residents carry no weapons and do not plan to get involved in anything they see. Instead, they will report it to the base station, run tonight by Kathy Wilson from her Lowell Court home. Wilson will call police, providing officers with the patrol's location and a description of the problem.
This is Wilson's first shift. "I'll probably sit around and look through some magazines," she says. "I hope nothing happens."
On this particular night, Miller and her daughter, with the foot patrol of Margaret Lee and Jim Wright, are planning to work through the night.
Wright, 38, and Lee, 63, pierce all the dark nooks and crannies of the neighborhood with flashlight beams. They wear bright orange vests.
"I don't want to catch anyone back here by surprise," Wright says, as he shines his light into a small alley between the rows of condominiums.
It's an usually warm night and teen-agers coming and going seem to be the only ones on the street. Leaves crackle under the pair's feet as they crack jokes about the number of holes they're finding in the yards behind the homes.
Motion lights automatically switch on, casting a bright beam on Lee and Wright as they continue their watch.
"I'm really cautious now," Lee says. "I have a double lock on my door and a pole on my sliding glass door."
Wright and Lee said they have called the police just once,