Alarmed in the Forge

June 22, 1993

The Baltimore County community of Rodgers Forge is by no means a frequent entry in the police blotter. In fact, county police say 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.

Not exactly the stuff of hair-raising crime waves, right? Yet some "Forgers" are so worried about crime that they're seriously considering hiring a private security force to guard their neighborhood.

The cause of their concern is the rash of robberies and sexual assaults in the area during the past couple months. Of course, no crime should be downplayed, especially sexual assault. At the same time, it's worth noting that the less a community is exposed to crime, the more alarmed it becomes when crime occurs. While this can be helpful in creating a greater safety consciousness within a neighborhood, citizens must be careful not to let alarm turn into panic -- as the proponents of private security for the Forge seem to have done.

Forge residents themselves are uncertain whether most of their neighbors would have the will or the wallet to shell out the annual $500-per-household fee for private protection. They might also ask whether the service is worth the potential damage to the reputation of their community. Do Rodgers Forge residents really feel it's desirable -- or necessary -- to make a public declaration that their pretty, tree-lined streets have become so dangerous they require hired guns for protection?

Community association officials point out that many people could yet do some easy, fairly inexpensive things to prevent crime. For example, properly lighting home exteriors and leaving lights on through the night. Removing overgrown bushes and plants from around homes. Installing secure locks. Putting "clubs" on car steering wheels. And, perhaps most important, getting to know neighbors so suspicious visitors become more conspicuous.

The association will soon take the fair and level-headed step of surveying residents to gauge local interest in paying for private security, starting a volunteer citizens' patrol similar to those around Baltimore and other crime-fighting measures.

Forgers are smart to be concerned about such a vital matter. Indeed, one of the outstanding attributes of the area is that the residents routinely take a deep interest in issues affecting their community. But, in this particular case, they ought to proceed calmly and avoid the kind of action that could do their neighborhood more harm than good.

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