In more than 30 years in business on Liberty Road, Albert J. Craemer has been shot at, has seen his customers forced to lie on the floor while they were robbed at gunpoint and has seen his beauty shop, Salon Albert, vandalized repeatedly.
Enough, he says, is enough.
"We are at war and we have to go on the offensive," he said. "We need police visibility. We need changes."
Other Liberty Road merchants echoed his feelings at a meeting last week with James McKinney, assistant to County Executive Roger B. Hayden. Mr. Craemer asked about the possibility of a countywide, mandatory fee imposed on merchants to pay for additional police.
"I want the police to get out of their cars and go into different stores at least once a week and get to know the merchants," Mr. Craemer said.
He said officers would be more likely to notice suspicious activity were they more familiar with their beats and people on them.
It's not that easy, said Mr. McKinney, because the county government doesn't have the authority to add that kind of tax. "What you need to do is bring in your delegates and your senator . . . to raise a bill with the legislature for an additional fee tacked on, designated for police protection," he said.
That didn't satisfy Alan Bertaux, proprietor of The Framin' Place.
"If you're not going to help us, we'll go to somebody else," he said.
"We don't see any leadership on the part of the government. We hear every day about Mogadishu, and we're at war right here."
Many merchants along the Liberty Road corridor say they have changed their daily routines since two bank tellers were slain Oct. 26 in Randallstown.
Shops close earlier. Women ask male co-workers to walk them to their cars after dark. Some employees refuse to work late hours, electing to finish their work weeks on Saturdays. Mr. Craemer's store no longer has a cash register, and he will not reveal where money is kept.
Shortly after the murders, Mr. Craemer said, police officers patrolled the area, especially near the bank in the 9800 block of Liberty Road. Some businesses and malls hired private security guards to provide protection and a sense of security for their customers, merchants said. But after several days or a week, Mr. Craemer said, "things go back to normal."
County police spokesman Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger agreed that police presence in the Liberty Road area temporarily increased after the slayings of the two tellers.
Officers went door-to-door to talk with merchants, he said, and attended community meetings to answer questions and provide information about avoiding crime.
"We look at it as our mission to reduce fear, and police presence does that," especially in an area that has experienced a recent violent crime, Sergeant Doarnberger said. "But I think citizens understand that it's not something we can keep up indefinitely."
The logistics of imposing a fee or additional tax on county merchants, and other possible solutions to the crime problem, will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Randallstown Library. The meeting is open to all county residents. Invitations have been extended to County Executive Hayden, the County Council and county delegates and senators, Mr. Craemer said.
In the meantime, Mr. Craemer said, he will work with the Liberty Communities Development Corp. to come up with a temporary solution to the crime problem. LCDC is exploring hiring an off-duty county officer to patrol the area during high-crime hours.
"But we really need something permanent," Mr. Craemer said. "I think we're starting off on the right foot."