Columbia Council seeks answers to curbing crime

June 10, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

The Columbia Council wants to get tough on crime -- or at least find some way to reduce it.

The council, which serves as the Columbia Association's board of directors, established a public safety committee last night to take up the problems of juvenile crime, vandalism and more serious offenses, and security issues including the safety of the city's pathways.

One goal of the committee is to involve teen-agers in cleaning up damage caused by vandalism, in developing ways to address the problem of crimes by their peers and in suggesting productive outlets for their energy.

"We should let people know this is a serious problem, an ongoing concern," said Councilwoman Evelyn A. Richardson of Dorsey's Search village, which this spring has had a spate of vandalism and a fire in an abandoned house that remains under investigation.

"We shouldn't let people turn their backs on it and say it's a problem for another area or it's another kid. It's time to deal with it."

Ms. Richardson said the Dorsey's Search village board supports establishing a "fun center" -- an amusement center for teen-agers with activities such as batting cages and miniature golf. The idea has been proposed several times before in Columbia and rejected by villages that didn't want such a center.

Ms. Richardson said crimes in Dorsey's Search have included car thefts, slashed tires, destruction of signs and indecent exposure, adding that the village's problems probably are similar to other communities throughout Columbia.

Councilman David Berson said the River Hill village board had a "heated discussion" last week about where to situate a tot lot and a 700-foot stretch of bicycle path, with some residents expressing concern that those open spaces could bring crime near their homes. Mr. Berson said such fears are based largely on perception and seem overblown.

Addressing a gathering of Long Reach village residents Monday night, Officer Steve Black of the Howard County police said the ** department receives frequent reports of incidents on Columbia pathways but added that pathways are no more a haven for crime and mischief than any other area.

The nonprofit Columbia Association maintains Columbia's open-space areas.

Councilman Roy Lyons of Long Reach said he wants to find a way to compel teen-agers to pay for things they destroy and for inconvenience they cause through criminal acts.

L "I see a permissiveness that pervades our society," he said.

Mr. Berson said the committee's focus must go beyond the acts of teen-agers to address broader issues.

Village boards and homeowners' associations have said lighting should be improved to increase security in areas throughout Columbia.

In other action, Wilde Lake village board member David Gardner told the council that the board remains opposed to the continuing construction of the Fairway Hills Golf Course while a resident's legal challenge to state wetlands and waterway construction permits remains unsettled.

Mr. Gardner said continuing the work could prove costly to the Columbia Association, which is paying for the $5.2 million project, if the challenge forces revisions of the golf course plans. Also, he said, construction is causing "irrevocable changes" to the Little Patuxent River watershed.

Wilde Lake resident Virginia Scott will have a hearing before a state administrative judge July 27 on issues related to the association's selection of the golf course site, which is bisected by the river just west of U.S. 29. The site contains nontidal wetlands.

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