County police discuss new program to curb robberies in Columbia Related crimes are focus

residents express concern over loitering, speeding

July 30, 1996|By Erica C. Harrington | Erica C. Harrington,SUN STAFF

Teen-age loitering, speeding motorists and other public safety problems continue to bedevil Columbia neighborhoods, residents from east Columbia's Long Reach village told police at a meeting called to discuss new efforts to fight robbery in Columbia.

About 30 people gathered at gathered at Long Reach Church of God in a downpour on Thursday to hear officers officers present their plan to curb robbery in the villages of Long Reach, Oakland Mills villages and Town Center.

Under the Robbery Suppression Program, 15 plainclothes and uniformed officers will patrol the villages, track crimes that may be related to robbery -- such as drug possession and alcohol violations -- and arrest people with outstanding warrants.

Program started July 18

The pilot program, which began July 18, is expected to last 10 weeks.

Although police do not break down robbery statistics by village, they said 116 robberies were reported countywide in the first six months of this year, compared with 81 reports during the same period in 1995.

At the meeting, Sgt. Morris Carroll, supervisor of the department's community services section, emphasized that residents should notify police of suspicious people in their neighborhoods as one way to decrease the number of robberies.

"You know who belongs in your neighborhood and who doesn't," said Carroll, who heads the department's community services section. "We want to identify these people."

The robbery suppression program was well-received by Wanda Hurt, a Village of Owen Brown resident and chairwoman of the Columbia Council's public safety committee.

"I think there should be a definite decrease in crime once [criminals] realize there are undercover officers and they start making arrests," she said.

Information on patterns

In the past, her committee has urged police to give more information on the pattern of crime in Columbia neighborhoods.

The committee also would like to see such data provided in a way that can be understood by residents.

Many residents at the meeting welcomed the idea of more police officers in the area.

Barbara Andersen, who lives on Hayshed Lane, said she is encouraged by the program.

"I think it's a positive thing," she said. "Seeing the officers should be a deterrent."

But other residents, such as Larry Hughes, who lives on High Tor Hill, said the program seemed disorganized.

Some criticism expressed

"It seems like they haven't thought it through," Hughes said. "We got a notice [of Thursday's meeting] on Tuesday, and they hadn't thought about having another meeting. It needs to be more organized."

Lt. William McMahon, head of the Police Department's special operations division, said he might schedule a meeting in September, near the end of the operation.

McMahon said the police will crack down on minor crimes as well as the more serious robberies.

"We want to get rid of situations that make people think robbery is OK," he said.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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