April 06, 1993

Crime has never been a pre-occupation in Carroll County, but increasing numbers of residents are concerned that this bucolic area will be overrun by lawlessness. With two homicides already this year -- twice as many as during all of 1992 -- and an increase in drug arrests, juvenile vandalism and petty offenses, a number of communities are exploring ways to curb crime.

In the wake of a drug-related killing in Westminster in January and general concern about an upsurge in criminal acts, the county seat is revamping its neighborhood crime watch program. Instead of continuing with a complicated hierarchy of area, neighborhood and block captains, the new system will use existing neighborhood associations to serve as the link between residents and police. Westminster police are also encouraging residents to report information about unsolved crimes and drug dealing on a "tip line."

Meanwhile, in New Windsor, residents are outraged at the growing amount of property destruction caused by a number of juveniles. At a recent meeting, residents expressed frustration that a small number of unsupervised youths were responsible for most of the nuisance crimes plaguing the town. When it was suggested that the community develop activities to occupy these kids, however, the reaction ranged from indifference to hostility.

Crime will flourish if it is tolerated. A community that ignores criminal behavior endangers itself. Residents of New Windsor who refuse to contribute some time and energy to a youth program are only inviting trouble. Keeping the youths occupied with constructive activity would probably reduce much of the malicious activity. Moreover, the adults might be able to make a difference in the lives of some kids who are mightily in need of direction.

People who see suspicious activities -- particularly drug dealing -- and neglect to call the police are not fulfilling their obligations as citizens. The police can't be everywhere. They must rely on citizens to notify them of criminal activity. Tips can be made anonymously if the tipster is worried about retribution.

Criminals are opportunists. If the environment is hostile to crime, they will go elsewhere. If citizens don't take on the responsibility of fighting crime, they can't expect to have a community free from it.

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