It was hard to lock up the police substation in Meade Village at nights this summer because of one 9-year-old girl and her penchant for reading.
"It was fun," said Vera Pack, who came in second place in a police-sponsored contest and won a red mountain bike and helmet. "When you didn't have anything to do, you could go and read in the library."
"We almost had to pull you out of there at night," said Officer Arthur G. Foote Jr., one of several officers who works in Meade Village as part of a neighborhood anti-drug program.
Vera was one of 33 children and young teens to get awards yesterday in a ceremony at the Meade Village Recreation Center from county Police Chief Robert P. Russell and County Executive Robert R. Neall.
"I certainly hope you enjoyed working with our police officers," Chief Russell told the group. "We will continue to be here and help you with your homework."
The children participated in a poster and reading contest in which they had to read as many books as they could during the summer vacation and write brief reports on each. Lenice Addison, 10, read 46 books and took first place.
"I like to read," she said, citing the Berenstain Bears books as her favorite. "It took me until the police station opened until it closed to read them all," she said.
County police became an active part of the Meade Village community last year in a "Take Back the Streets" program patterned after a successful effort in Freetown Village. County officials said crime in the drug-plagued community dropped 50 percent in one year.
Officers set up shop in an office and got to know residents and their children. They established a library, where children could spend some quiet time away from the streets.
Lehronda Johnson, 11, said she helped out in the office because she likes police officers. "When I grow up, I want to be one," she said.
"With more police in here, people out in the neighborhood are not going to commit any crimes," said Shakeiva Tisdale, 11, who is moving away from Meade Village to New Jersey at the end of the summer.
That is what county officials, who have provided money for the anti-drug programs, like to hear.
"We're going to try and make this place as good-looking as we can," Mr. Neall said. "But you have to keep up your end of the bargain. This is your community."
The third place winner in the book competition was Lartarsha Creek, who read 35 books. Vera won first place in the poster competition with a graphically illustrated sign that said, "Say no to drugs, they will mess with your brain."
Felicia Tinsely, 12, came in second with a poster that said, "Don't let drugs get in the way of your dreams."
Ronald Smith, 11, came in third with a poem, "Be smart, don't start. Get a hug, not drugs."