As far back as October, Crofton civic leaders were trying to drive home the point that changes in the way local police officers respond to calls was not the beginning of the end for the five-member force.
The change, in which county police have been given the responsibility of first response to calls in Crofton, went into affect last month. It is designed to increase county police patrols in the area bounded by routes 3, 424 and 450.
But getting people to understand was not easy. As recently as last week, a contingent of residents showed up at a Crofton Civic Association board meeting to decry the new policy. They said they feared the 13-member board was trying to do away with their extra protection.
The North Forest apartment complex even posted fliers around its buildings urging residents to attend the meeting. "We may lose our Crofton police force!" the flier warned. "There is power in numbers -- please show up!!"
For several weeks, Crofton Civic Association President Ed Dosek and Town Manager Jordan Harding have been fielding phone calls and answering questions from concerned residents. Harding has called the flier irresponsible.
"This is a very critical matter," he said Saturday. "Any elected official in the community who would even propose the disbandment of the Crofton police force without the benefit of a series of public hearings would be out of their mind."
Both Harding and Dosek point to a proposed set of bylaw changes -- which failed to pass two weeks ago at a general membership meeting --that would have given the association membership more say in the day-to-day operation of the police force.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people don't want to accept change," Harding said. "Even when it's goodmanagement."
Crofton residents have complained for years that they were not getting their money's worth from county police. The countyhad been leaving all calls up to the Crofton force, which was established to supplement county service.
Under the new policy, a patrolcar has been assigned to Crofton, with county officers ordered to respond to all calls and write all reports. That frees up Crofton officers for special assignments, such as targeting speeders and vandals and working undercover.
But at an association meeting last week, many residents complained the change was the first step toward disbanding the force, which costs the special tax district about $240,000 a year.
A woman who answered the phone at the North Forest managementoffice refused to give her name or comment on the flier, which is printed on management stationary and signed on the bottom: North ForestManagement.
"I would prefer not to talk about it," the woman said. "It's over and it's done. I'm not saying anything about it."
Both Dosek and Harding said they would call the management company and try to find out who wrote the flier and where the information came from.
"I think that these are knee-jerk reactions to any change," Harding said. "And I think that the people who are perpetuating the rumor have done a disservice to the community. This business of disbanding the police force is a non-issue."