Crofton police have declared war on two gangs of teen-agers who haveallegedly assaulted two people and vandalized several buildings in recent weeks.
"I'm not going to allow these unsupervised little hoods to run loose in this community thinking they have complete immunity from prosecution," Town Manager Jordan Harding said yesterday. "If they are looking for trouble, they've come to the right place."
Two gangs have appeared in the last two weeks, as the five-memberdepartment struggles with a staff shortage.
Two officers are out on sick leave, leaving three officers responsible for protecting 10,000 people in a triangle bordered by Routes 3, 424 and 450.
The department, with a $250,000 annual budget paid by residents of the Crofton special taxing district, supplements regular county police patrolsin the community.
Because of the manpower shortage, Harding said,he has asked the county to increase its police presence in Crofton.
Sgt. Deborah French, who runs the department, has been out of workfor a month. Harding said she is recovering from surgery but is working half-days in the office.
A second officer, David Muhl, also has been out a month following an off-duty car accident. Harding said Muhl injured his back and neck and may be out several more weeks.
Harding acknowledged that the community doesn't have an officer on patrol during certain shifts, but he said residents are being protected.He said the shift without an officer on duty varies every day and never occurs at night.
When no one is on duty, calls to the Police Department are routed to the county police dispatchers, Harding said.
Capt. Franklin Milholland, head of the Western District, said he has assigned two extra patrols for the Crofton area until the two officers return. He also said he has assigned a detective to look into the teen gangs.
Harding said he will go back to see Milholland either today or next week and ask for more help in dealing with the youths.
"I'm going to ask the county to join me in a real aggressive stance," he said. "I am totally fed up with this mess."
Harding said two gangs operate in the area: the "Crofton Crew" and the "Bicycle Gang."
Harding said the Bicycle Gang comprises about 18 to 20 teen-agers, from 14 to 20 years old. He said the gang is responsible for the two assaults, one about two weeks ago on a youth near the Crofton Country Club. In another assault last week, a 52-year-old man had two teeth knocked out after telling teens to get off his front lawn.
The Crofton Crew is said to be smaller and is blamed for acts of vandalism, including the spray-painting of four-letter words on buildings.Both groups are blamed for harassing and threatening people.
Harding said the gangs include teen-agers from Crofton and outside the area. "We know all the members of the Crofton Crew," he said. "They arewell-known to the community."
The town manager and county police said some of the gang members have been arrested and given juvenile citations. "We are warning their parents that they have to straighten out," Harding said.
He said some parents cooperated with authorities but others defended their children.
"It is discouraging to me but what the (youths) need is a good strong foster parent to provide the necessary discipline and guidance," Harding said. "I'm going to put a stop to it as long as it takes me. They are not going to come in and take over this place."