Alarmed by crime, New Windsor residents seek more protection

July 21, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Some homeowners living in the west end of New Windsor complain that the Resident Trooper Program and the town's Neighborhood Watch are not enough to curb lawlessness in their neighborhood, which they say is considered "the wrong side of tracks" by town officials.

The residents say the town needs a full-time police officer to deal with trouble caused by outsiders, rowdies and people renting apartments in the west end from businessman John Connell Sr.

"I've been here 35 years, and it's never been like this," said Shawn C. Parry, 35, a bricklayer who lives in the house where he was reared, on Main Street west of High Street. "I'm not just talking about kids running around here, either. I'm talking about breaking and enterings, assaults -- adult-type crimes, some that are committed by juveniles.

"According to the people in office, we don't need [more] police protection."

Mr. Parry has offered to be trained at a police academy at his own expense and become the town's policeman, but the town declined for liability reasons.

"They don't need it up there where they live [east of High Street] because this doesn't bother them," he said.

Several of the renters agree that a few tenants cause problems.

But Paula Eckenrode and Cindy and Luther Marshall, who rent in the west end and serve on the Community Watch, said they were upset at being labeled troublemakers.

"They always try to attack Mr. Connell, but you can't blame the landlord for the tenants," Mrs. Eckenrode said. "They are trying to give us all a bad name, and it's working."

"It is certain tenants Mr. Connell rents to," Mr. Marshall said. "He can't help it if the parents can't control their kids."

Town officials say they are neither labeling the west end of town nor ignoring New Windsor's problems by depending on the Neighborhood Watch and the trooper program.

Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. and Councilman Ronnie Blacksten, the town's police commissioner, said they believe the Resident Trooper Program fits the town's law enforcement needs. The Neighborhood Watch, which has gotten more support recently, is a necessary supplement to that protection, they say.

"What you hear complaints about is kids riding bikes down sidewalks, kids talking loud at night, cars getting egged, things like that," Mr. Gullo said. "There is no dope smoking in the streets, no armed robberies. These are community problems, not criminal problems."

Neighborhood Watch members have encountered mostly curfew and noise violations during their patrols, according to incident reports they have filed. The last serious crime reported by police in New Windsor was a rash of burglaries late last year. Those were solved in February, using information provided by a resident.

"What did they say at the MML [Maryland Municipal League] meeting -- 'people serving people'?" Mr. Blacksten said. Mr. Gullo nodded. "We have got to help ourselves to help our community," Mr. Blacksten said.

Mr. Parry was one of several residents who addressed police protection concerns during The Town Council meeting July 6, when John Dunn, the resident trooper who replaced 12-year veteran Phil Henry, was being officially introduced to the town. The resident trooper splits his 40-hour week between New Windsor and Union Bridge.

K? Ruth Franklin and Dan Wolfe, both of whom own homes west of

High Street, spoke at the meeting.

Mrs. Franklin complained of disrespectful youths who congregate near the New Windsor Inn, ride bikes down the sidewalk, impede traffic and shout profanities.

"A complete lack of respect for other people's property," Mr. Wolfe, 45, said of some of the town youths. "There was a time of day when you could leave home and leave your doors hanging open. Now you can't."

The complaints were much like those expressed at the March 29, 1993, meeting that spawned the Neighborhood Watch, when about 100 people crammed into the fire hall to discuss vandalism, petty crime and juvenile delinquency.

Since that meeting, the town has adopted an 11 p.m. curfew for youths under 18 and has outlawed noise that interferes with "reason able peace."

The Neighborhood Watch has grown from a handful of men shouting at the backs of scattering children to 36 men and women in matching T-shirts and hats warning youths about the 11 p.m. curfew, talking to their parents and earning the respect of their neighbors.

Many residents and business people agree that the streets are quieter and that there are fewer roaming children than there were last year.

Phil and Kelli Roop, who live in the west end a few doors from Mr. Parry, said they can now sit on their front porch with their young children without being bothered.

Even Mrs. Franklin and Mr. Wolfe say things have improved.

But the critics still say the town should be preventing problems.

"They need a police officer to rectify the situation, 24 hours a day. Right now, he'd be visible rather than showing up after the fact," said Jeff Kraft, another neighbor of Mr. Parry.

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