Police open office in Wilde Lake area

June 08, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

DeWayne Kerr, 14, says he's found a source of encouragement and safety in a new police neighborhood satellite office in his Wilde Lake neighborhood.

Officers there might talk with him about his math interests or, more importantly, he says, discourage the gun-toting youth who confronted him on his way home from school in December.

DeWayne and other residents joined county, housing and police officials yesterday in applauding the opening of Howard County's second police satellite office.

The satellite office in Rideout Heath is part of police Chief James Robey's community-oriented policing policy, which is designed to foster closer ties between residents and police to help prevent crime.

"This is a tremendous thing," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "The police can't do everything on their own. We need residents' help."

The new office in the Rideout Heath development will serve six West Columbia communities within a two-mile radius -- including Waverly Winds, Randleigh Court, Roslyn Rise and Fall River Terrace -- in which two-thirds of the housing units are subsidized.

Sgt. Karen Burnett, of the Crime Prevention Section, said the Police Department wanted to set up a new satellite office in West Columbia based on the success of a similar office that opened in the once-troubled Stevens Forest Apartments in East Columbia in April 1993.

The nonprofit Columbia Housing Corp., which owns 500 units in eight developments in Columbia and Ellicott City, donated the space at Rideout Heath.

The new satellite office is a front bedroom in the upstairs of a renovated townhouse.

The office will be staffed by officers from the Police Department's Crime Prevention Section for at least six hours a week, but the office will be open for police use 24 hours a day. As many as seven West Columbia patrol officers will make sporadic visits to the office during each 10-hour shift to eat lunch, do paper work or chat with residents.

"I hope it becomes a center for the community," said Elsie Walters, executive director of Columbia Housing Corp. "It should build on what the community has to offer."

Ms. Walters said the office also will house academic mentor programs, community events and will be open to other county agencies holding public functions.

About a dozen residents attended yesterday's opening.

Sergeant Burnett expects, as it has in Stevens Forest, that a connection will be made with neighborhood children first, with parents warming to the idea later.

"I feel a lot safer," said Dolores Counsellor, 63, a 19-year resident. "I wish this would have been done a long time ago."

"We need some decent programs for the kids," said Eleanor Johnson, 54, also a 19-year resident. "This is really nice."

Both women said they are tired of being cursed at by outsiders creating a ruckus in the early morning hours.

Detectives from the Street Drug Unit have concentrated their efforts in the area in recent months and the satellite office is intended to sustain that presence.

Sergeant Burnett said the department looks to apartment and townhouse developments because they are densely populated areas, which tend to draw more calls.

Chief Robey said service calls have dropped sharply in the Stevens Forest complex since the satellite office opened there.

Police said they hope the new office will draw the same response that Stevens Forest Apartments gave them.

"They developed trust in our officers," said Capt. John Hall, who heads the Southern District police station. "When they see a drug car pull into their neighborhood now, they are more willing to pick up a phone and say this doesn't belong here. You'll see the same here."

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