Patterson Park woes

May 22, 1991

There probably are no simple solutions for controlling the behavior of youngsters after school lets out -- a problem highlighted last week by the brutal beating of a Patterson Park man by three teen-agers near the Hampstead Middle School.

So far, only one of the assailants has been definitely identified as a student at Hampstead Middle. Police and school officials say there may be no other link between last week's attack and the school. But they acknowledge that the incident has highlighted long-standing complaints by neighborhood residents of rowdy behavior by students walking through the area after school.

Mayor Schmoke has suggested staggering the last recess at Hampstead in order to limit the number of youngsters leaving the school at one time. Also, he has asked the police to step up patrols through the area in the afternoon and asked Hampstead's principal to work with parent groups to provide more adult supervision during critical hours of the day.

These measures should help. But there is only so much control even the best-run school can exert over children once classes are over. And the city does not have in place the after-school programs that could channel youthful energy in more productive directions. That's a pity, because it is likely the problems around Hampstead Middle School would diminish significantly if students had a viable alternative to unsupervised free time.

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