The people living near the District of Columbia's juvenile detention center in western Anne Arundel County aren't impressed that the district has temporarily closed a building from which a teen-ager accused of murder and three others escaped last month.
William O'Reilly of Maryland City said the community wants the entire Forest Haven detention center shut down. Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association, vowed to do just that.
"To kill a snake, you cut off its head," he said. "We're going to go after their dollars."
Laurel Mayor Frank P. Casula said Friday that he would be happy if Forest Haven was closed. If that doesn't happen, he would like district officials to notify surrounding communities immediately of escapes, as they have agreed to do. He also plans to discuss the Forest Haven problem with the district's next mayor.
Last week, after the Oct. 25 escape of four teen-agers from Camellia Cottage at Forest Haven, U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a 5th District Democrat, threatened to cut off Forest Haven's funding unless the district stopped housing young offenders in Camellia Cottage.
In a statement issued yesterday, Mr. Hoyer said, "I demanded that this stop, and it has. It was critically important for District of Columbia officials to act to ensure the safety of our citizens."
He added that his "strong desire" was for the district to keep the building closed.
The district's nearby medium-security Cedar Knoll youth detention center closed in 1993 after a series of escapes and after Mr. Hoyer played an instrumental role in eliminating the center's funding. If Forest Haven can't be closed, independent corrections experts not affiliated with the district should inspect it to make sure adequate procedures are being followed, Mr. Smallwood said.
Camellia Cottage had housed a prerelease program for up to 20 young offenders, in addition to educational programs.
The last youths staying there were reunited with their families or transferred to group homes by Wednesday, said Larry Brown, a spokesman for the district's Department of Human Services, which operates Forest Haven.
The district had said that only youths deemed ready to be fTC returned to the community were kept at Camellia Cottage.
The four who escaped in late October were inmates of Oak Hill, the district's maximum-security youth jail next to Forest Haven, who had been taken to Forest Haven for an educational program. One was convicted of shooting and wounding six people at the Benning Park Pool in the district in June 1993. Another was accused of a double murder in September 1993. All were recaptured.
"It should never have happened," Mr. Brown said. "Those kids should have never been at that facility."
He said the four were at Camellia Cottage because of "a breakdown in communication" among staff members. The problem has been addressed, he said.
He said the closing will give district officials time to review operations at Camellia Cottage and possibly make security improvements. The cottage will not be used for any programs until district officials can meet with local residents to discuss their concerns, Mr. Brown said.
As of Friday, no date had been set for the meeting. "We're sick of meetings. We want action," Mr. Smallwood said.