Chill out, Forgers

June 21, 1993

Neighborhoods don't get much safer than Rodgers Forge i Baltimore County.

Though not crime-free -- what neighborhood is? -- the Forge comes pretty close. County police report that crimes such as robbery, breaking and entering, aggravated assault and theft in Rodgers Forge all stay consistently at levels of about 1 percent of county totals. Hardly crime-wave stuff.

So why are some "Forgers" so worried about crime that they're seriously considering hiring a private security patrol to guard their neighborhood?

The answer lies in the police blotter, which shows a rash of robberies and sexual assaults in the area during the past couple of months.

Of course, no criminal act should be downplayed, particularly one as heinous as sexual assault. Yet it's a verity of modern life that the less a community is exposed to crime, the more alarmed it tends to become when crime occurs.

This is largely a good thing that can lead to greater safety consciousness within a neighborhood. Citizens must nonetheless take care not to let alarm turn into panic, as the proponents of private security for Rodgers Forge seem to have done.

Forgers themselves have questioned whether most residents would have the willingness or the wherewithal to pay the $500-per-household annual fee for private protection. Besides, do they want to risk damaging the reputation of their community by publicly declaring it has become so dangerous that it requires hired guns for protection?

As community association officials point out, many residents could yet take easy and fairly inexpensive steps to prevent crime.

For example, they should properly light their home exteriors and leave the lights on throughout the night, remove overgrown bushes and plants from around homes, install secure locks, put "clubs" on car steering wheels and, perhaps most important, get to know their neighbors so suspicious visitors become more conspicuous.

The association will soon survey residents to determine the degree of local interest in paying for private security, starting a volunteer citizens' patrol similar to others around Baltimore and other crime-fighting measures. A fair, level-headed move.

Indeed, Forgers are wise to be worried by a matter as important as this one; such concern about issues affecting their neighborhood helps make it a great place to live. But residents must also be careful not to get so upset they take actions that could give their community a black eye.

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