Police getting into the community N. Laurel satellite station 'increases our visibility'

August 09, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Sgt. Morris Carroll had just dropped by the recently opened North Laurel satellite police station for a visit when two teen-agers rushed in to report that they had been been robbed.

In minutes, Howard County police had arrested a suspect.

That response on a night about three weeks ago is the kind of anti-crime action that police believe satellite stations can bring to a neighborhood.

"It increases our visibility in the community," Carroll said of the 2-month-old station, which has no full-time staff but gives officers a place to follow up on reports, make phone calls and speak to residents. The station "allows us to respond to calls quicker," he said.

The station, in a one-bedroom unit at the Seasons Apartments on Covered Wagon Way, is the third such office in the county. The others are in the Stevens Forest Apartments, in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, and in the Rideout Heath townhouses, in Wilde Lake village.

County police plan to open a fourth satellite office in the Guilford Gardens Apartments in Guilford, but no date has been set.

Officers visit the North Laurel office about twice a day, said Sgt. Steven Keller, a spokesman for the department. Their visits range from five or 10 minutes to an hour.

But the office has received mixed reviews from residents, some of whom say that North Laurel's crime problem is caused largely by a lack of recreational facilities for young people -- something the satellite station does not address.

North Laurel has no parks or recreation facilities other than the community swimming pools.

"It's good to have protection," said Barbara Dulaney, a five-year North Laurel resident. "Cops are nice. But we need something for our kids so we don't have to have the cops after them."

Added resident Caroline Payne: "We still have our crime. You still don't see [the police] enough."

But North Laurel Civic Association member Donna Thewes, who held the community's annual Night Out Against Crime at her home this week, hailed the station as a needed crime prevention measure.

"I think it's long overdue," she said. "I think they should have these little stations in all the communities."

Police say they have taken steps to reach out to young people in North Laurel. They cite as an example an event held Aug. 2 at the Seasons Apartments during which officers spoke to young people about such topics as bicycle safety and gave tours of the department's mobile command unit.

"We have been trying to get the youth involved in things other than congregating," said Eric Skeeter, the Seasons' general manager.

But Stephen Black, a community services officer who works the North Laurel area, and other law enforcement officials said the Police Department doesn't have the resources to meet all of the community's needs or to staff the satellite office full time.

He also said the office, space for which was donated by the Seasons, wasn't designed to be a regular police station, which some community members opposed.

"They didn't want it run like a police state with constant surveillance," Black said. "We're just one of the neighbors."

Police say it is difficult to document the impact the office has had in just two months. But they cite such incidents as the July 16 arrest when Carroll stopped by the office.

"Citizens are aware that [the office] is there," Carroll said. "That's helping."

Pub Date: 8/09/96

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