After months of open-air drug deals, store robberies, a pipe bombingand a shootout on a neighborhood street, Edgewood residents are trying to take back their community from the criminals.
More than 75 residents gathered Monday night to ask police and County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmannfor more police patrols and streetlights. Many said they would pay higher taxes for these services.
Rehrmann told residents that the county will study the cost of the requests. She promised new streetlights but said extra police patrols may be tougher to arrange.
Julie Burall, who has lived in Edgewood for eight years, urged neighbors to work together to make the neighborhood safe.
"You've got to decide if you want your community back and do something about it," Burall told the crowd. "It's not a choice anymore. Get involved."
Some Edgewood residents, including Burall, said they have been threatened for trying to fight crime -- a few as they left their homes for Monday's meeting. Burall said she wasonce told by a friend of a suspected drug dealer in the area to keepa close watch on her two children.
"This has become a playground for (criminals)," said Burall, who helped organize the community meeting. "But we don't want the drugs. We don't want the violence. We want to do what we can to make if safe."
Residents say drugs have long been a problem in Edgewood, but they say other crimes -- believed to be drug-related -- have increased in the last two years.
What residents fear most is getting caught in a turf war among drug dealers.
Most of the crime is centered in or near the Edgewater Village development, off the 1700 block of Pulaski Highway, residents say. Recent incidents include:
* A pipe-bombing along Horseshoe Lane, whichcaused $3,000 in damage to one vehicle and minor damage to a car on Sept. 9.
* A shootout last month at the intersection of Top View and Edgewater drives. At least five shots were fired, residents say, but the suspects fled by the time police arrived.
* At least six armed robberies at Edgewood area convenience stores in the last severalmonths, including one at the Edgewood Dash-In early Monday. A suspect in that incident has been arrested.
Residents say drug dealers have lured children of low-income families to carry narcotics and set up drug transactions.
Paul Alexander, who lives near the lake in Edgewater Village, says illicit drug use is responsible for the recentcrime wave, noting that he often finds hypodermic needles floating in the lake near the ducks.
"The problems come and go," said Alexander, who has lived in Edgewood for 17 years. "Right now, it's the worst that I've seen."
A woman at the meeting, who declined to give her name for fear of her family's safety, said she sees people park their cars on Horseshoe Lane and walk to Harbinger Trail to sell drugs.
"What do I do?" the woman asked police officers attending the meeting.
Sgt. John D. Thomas, of the state police barracks in Benson,urged the woman and other residents to report all suspicious activity to police.
"There's no reason for you to sit on that information," Thomas said. "(The police) need that."
DeWayne D. Curry, spokesman for the county Sheriff's Office, said citizens' complaints will be reviewed by the department.
Up to this point, police say, investigators have not been able to get enough evidence to make any arrestsof suspected drug dealers in the area.
Meanwhile, state police are helping residents organize Neighborhood Watch groups along Top ViewDrive and Horseshoe Lane. These groups watch neighbors' homes and report to police anything they believe is suspicious.
Rehrmann suggested Edgewood residents hold regular meetings with county administrators to address community issues and asked for volunteers to help organize the meetings.
One of those who volunteered was Lawrence Worthington, a worker at the state Department of Economic and Employment Development in Baltimore who has lived in Edgewood since 1977.
Worthington said that the fight won't be easy but that, if residents showthey are committed, they can get the help of police and county government.
"I think people have been sleeping," Worthington said. "They need to be shocked back to reality."
The community pulled together before, about a decade ago, when they pushed for the county to clean up an abandoned development site. The county and state eventually agreed to pay to develop the site in Edgewater Village with a lake and park, Worthington noted.
Worthington is optimistic that Edgewoodresidents can pull together again.
"We do have a major drug problem in the Edgewood area," said Worthington, who has two teen-age sons. "We do have known drug pushers. . . . But I'm not going to be intimidated. I'm not going to run."