County police Cpl. Gordie March stood in the center of Meade Village and couldn't help but smile as children rushed up to police officers -- many on their own time -- to claim trinkets, T-shirts and circus tickets, or to hear uniformed officers sing rock 'n' roll.
"When did you think you would see this?" he asked. "I mean, this is Meade Village."
Corporal March and the other officers were launching their second Take Back Your Streets Program in a county public housing project with a cookout last week.
The program was started a year ago at Freetown Village, a Pasadena community with a reputation for drug dealing and violence. It was so successful that the residents have complained about their officers leaving.
"When you stay in these places for a while, you build up a relationship with the people," Corporal March said. "They become family. You just can't live without them."
Police moved into Freetown in large numbers. They raided apartments, made arrests and ran the dealers out. Then they built a playground, tutored youngsters and took the children on field trips to museums and Orioles games.
But Corporal March stressed that Freetown will not be neglected. Some experienced officers will help get the program started in Meade Village, but will remain in Freetown as much as possible.
The Meade Village program is more ambitious than the one in Freetown, which has half the population of Meade Village.
"I appreciate what they are doing," said Valentine Owens, who works at the Meade Village Recreation Center. "They come into the community and help people put their lives back together. They are pulling people off the streets."
Officials say they are planning joint events for Freetown Village and Meade Village residents.
George Johnson took five of his seven children from Freetown Village to Meade Village to take part in the festivities.
"It's great," he said. "With school just letting out, it is good that the police come in and help out with the kids. They did a good job in Freetown. It's going to be tougher in here."
Police plan to hold a similar cookout Thursday in Freetown. And they are talking about expanding the program in the next few years to include neighborhoods in Brooklyn Park and Pioneer City.
"It helps the kids in the neighborhoods," said Beverly Thomas, who wondered across the street from Pioneer City to Meade Village to eat some hamburgers. "It shows the community that the police care."