U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin toured Meade Village yesterday and praised residents and police officers for turning what was once a drug- and crime-plagued neighborhood into a haven for children.
But the congressman, who also represents one-third of Baltimore, wondered if the successful "Take Back our Streets" program has strong underpinnings.
"My main concern is maintaining this," Mr. Cardin told members of the Anne Arundel County Housing Authority during a meeting before his tour. "Five years from now, will it continue? That's what's worrying me."
It all comes down to money, replied Larry A. Loyd, the executive director of the housing authority.
"As the program gets more and more successful, the funding winds down," he said. "We just need to maintain the momentum."
Mr. Loyd told him that the funding source must be reliable, otherwise the program will be undermined and confidence will ++ be lost.
"What happens if something changes, like a key person moves out of the neighborhood," Mr. Cardin asked. "Is there someone to take her place. And will all this support that is here now remain or will it go to another community, letting this place sink or swim on its own?"
He was told that the program depends on volunteers and contributions.
Fund-raisers have collected more than $30,000 for the program, and state Sen. Michael Wagner said more are planned, including an indoor mini-golf tournament.
Mr. Loyd said he hoped to get more federal grants to help pay to refurbish buildings and grounds. The housing authority is using a $500,000 federal grant to fix up several buildings.
Mr. Cardin liked what he saw. He toured two apartments in a renovated building, met with tenants and walked through a police substation that doubles as a library and study room for children who need a quiet place.
He said all the pieces are in place for a workable program, including community involvement and active elected representatives. "You have a police department that is sensitive and a housing authority that wants to do this."
The Meade Village program was started this summer by county police officers, who patterned it after a similar initiative in Freetown Village in Pasadena.
Off-duty police officers have moved into the neighborhood, organized activities for youngsters such as cookouts and ball games, taken them on field trips and tutored them.
That bond helps the police locate and force out drug dealers. Authorities said crime has dropped 50 percent in Freetown over the last year.
"Ninety percent of the residents are victims," said Anne Arundel Police Chief Robert P. Russell. "They are being held captive by 10 percent who are the criminals. It's obvious that we lock into the 90 percent.
"There seems to be change in Meade Village already," the chief said.
"That's what we are explaining to Mr. Cardin. We just don't come in here and make arrests. We are in here for the long haul."
That's good news for Jerline Daniels, who has lived in Meade Village for four years and just recently moved into a newly renovated garden apartment.
"How do you like it here?" Mr. Cardin asked.
"I love it," she answered.
"That's the right answer," the congressman said. "I like what you did here. It's very nice. You should be very proud."
Mr. Cardin said that he would like to see other communities in his district implement Anne Arundel's program. But he said that the program has to be tailored to specific neighborhoods.
"This is a very impressive community," Mr. Cardin said. "I wish I could pick it up and put it down someplace else."