Residents group urges closing of light rail station

May 13, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane and Consella A. Lee | Gregory P. Kane and Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writers

Last year, members of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association voted in favor of a light rail station in their community. Two nights ago, they voted to shut it down, saying it has led to increased crime in their neighborhood.

About 180 residents packed the library at the Linthicum Elementary School on Wednesday night, irate about an increase in robberies, assaults, break-ins and bicycle thefts they blame on light rail.

"The crime rate has gone up dramatically" since the station opened last July, Gerald P. Starr, president of the association, said yesterday. "We've had more break-ins."

Mass Transit Administration police have logged three incidents at the Linthicum station since January, said MTA spokeswoman Dianna Rosborough. One was for robbery and two were for destruction of property, she said.

County police, meanwhile, started their own "light rail enforcement initiative" on May 4 to help cut down on crime. They have concentrated on the shopping center across Dorsey Road from the Cromwell Station stop where merchants have complained of an increase in shoplifting.

Since then, they have made nearly 30 arrests, most of them for theft.

Linthicum residents "feel so unsecure about it," Mr. Starr said. "That's why the emotions were high. They don't feel they have as safe a community."

At the meeting, residents complained that MTA police officers have not been aggressive enough in combating crime. They cheered when anyone spoke about closing the station behind the Royal Farms Store on Camp Meade Road and jeered mention of state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, a Ferndale Democrat who supports light rail.

NTC Some residents blamed him for the problems the community now faces, and said he has done nothing to help them.

Mr. Wagner claimed the meeting was "orchestrated" by his opponents, because he and other District 32 representatives were not invited although other politicians were there.

"It seems like the right people were invited to make us look like we were at fault," he said. "I was fair game. They were shooting their daggers and darts at me."

County Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks, who has been considering changing his registration to Republican to run against Mr. Wagner in the fall, was at the Linthicum meeting.

Yesterday, he told council members that crime problems in North County are a foretaste of what will happen countywide if light rail is extended further.

Del. John G. Gary, a Millersville Republican who is running for county executive, told residents at the meeting it is unlikely the station could be closed. He suggested residents join with those of other jurisdictions to insist on stronger law enforcement efforts along the line.

Mr. Wagner said he has been working with the MTA and county police on ways to clamp down on the crime problem. "We can't just have people touring the community to see what they can get into," he said.

Some residents did concede that closing the station could adversely affect commuters who use the line to get to jobs in Baltimore.

Ms. Rosborough of the MTA said she did not know what impact closing the station would have on crime or commuters because "it's not something we have looked at."

Responding to complaints that the MTA police weren't aggressive enough, Ms. Rosborough pointed out that officers have made 50 arrests on the line since January, most of them teen-agers accused of disorderly conduct.

MTA police Chief Bernard Foster was criticized at the meeting for not giving a specific timetable for ending crime on the light rail. Ms. Rosborough said answering such questions would be impossible.

"That would be like asking any jurisdiction -- whether it's Anne Arundel police, Baltimore County police or city police -- when they can end crime," Ms. Rosborough said.

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