Seeking Security In Chesterfield

September 16, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

With the incidents of burglaries, thefts and vandalism rising and the numbers of residents willing to patrol neighborhoods declining, the Chesterfield Home Owners Association is considering hiring a private security company to patrol the community.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 this year, residents reported more than 180 incidents of crime, including 95 cases of disorderly conduct, 20 of vandalism and four sex offenses.

But the number of volunteers for the neighborhood security patrol has dropped from "a couple hundred" to three, said Robin Holderman, an association board member and patrol volunteer.

"From what I understand, at one time there was a couple hundred volunteers. There was never a problem finding rTC someone to do the patrol," he said. "Last year we had 13, this year we have three. I'm afraid to see what next year comes up with."

The move toward private security shows increasing apathy in communities, said Anne Arundel County police Capt. Tom Shanahan, Eastern District commander.

Ulmstead Estates, Gibson Island and Cape St. Claire already have security patrols.

"There still seems to be a degree of apathy when it comes to getting involved: forming neighborhood watch programs, block parents, locking windows and doors," Captain Shanahan said. "If everyone just became more aware of it, crime would be stopped."

The community crime watch program is "the one thing that is very effective across the country . . . and it's free," he told a group of Chesterfield residents last week.

While Captain Shanahan said that crime in Chesterfield, a community of 1,834 homes, is "not that significant," Mr. Holderman pointed to recent incidents of vandalism to say that the need for patrolling the area is obvious.

On Wednesday, someone slashed the tires on a resident's car. Last week, a group of youths started fires behind the houses and played loud music. And before that, others dug a 20-foot trench in the common areas, he said.

"They knocked over a tree that was not dead. Unfortunately that's going to cost us money," Mr. Holderman added.

Hiring a security company or off-duty police officers also will cost the residents as much as $49,270 a year, or an additional $26 annually tacked onto community fees.

Mr. Holderman said he did not know when the board of directors will decide on the security issue, but he said whatever the members decide will be put into effect by next spring.

Off-duty police officers have been patrolling Cape St. Claire since 1989 and cutting down on loud parties and rowdyism, said Gretel Derby, a former improvement association officer.

She said two residents in the community of 2,200 homes, angered by loud parties and in the community park, began a door-to-door drive to pay for the security force.

"Cape St. Claire has just had an extremely positive experience," she said.

As in Chesterfield, however, participation in the patrols waxed and waned. And those who were patrolling didn't have the authority to do anything but call police.

"You can't expect a couple of accountants to walk into a party with 100 people on the beach and break it up," she said.

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