An article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly stated the amount of the state grant given to county police for fighting crime in Columbia's Long Reach village. Police will receive $122,000 a year for three years. Also, a map of another area incorrectly was published with that article.
The Sun regrets the errors.
Getting named this week as one of the state's 35 crime "hot spots" is good news and bad news for Columbia's Long Reach village.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
The good news is that the county Police Department now has $122,000 to spend in the east Columbia area over the next three years on crime-prevention programs.
The bad news, some residents say, is that the village now has been officially labeled an area of relatively high crime within Howard County.
Yesterday, as state officials were formally announcing the HotSpot crime-fighting grants to the 35 recipients, some in Howard were trying to play down the negative connotations.
"People hear 'hot spot,' and they think Long Reach must have a terrible crime problem," said Debbie Carroll, a police liaison. "But it's the most populated village in Columbia, and its crimes really are not that bad."
Long Reach was chosen as part of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's program to give $10.5 million in state and federal money over three years to fight crime in areas of 24 jurisdictions around the state, ranging from such urban neighborhoods as Cherry Hill in South Baltimore to rural Grantsville in Garrett County.
On a per-capita basis, Long Reach has more than twice as much violent crime and four times as many drug calls for service as the Howard County average, according to police data.
But county police say the department chose Long Reach because there already are strong anti-crime programs in place in the neighborhood.
Last year, the police started a "zero tolerance" program in Long Reach that put officers on the streets four nights a week and empowered them to make arrests for the smallest offenses. The program, police and residents say, drove out dozens of drug dealers loitering along Tamar Drive. Police still patrol the area but not as intensively.
This summer, Howard police also initiated a robbery-suppression program in Long Reach, which police say has curbed street crime there. With the help of a federal grant, the initiative will continue through the summer.
In addition, there are some strong neighborhood watch groups in the village, and the Long Reach Church of God runs several after-school prevention programs and drug counseling sessions.
"Here in Long Reach, we have all these ingredients in place to make things work," said Maj. Wayne Livesay, who coordinated the Howard grant application. "We know crime is rampant, drugs are rampant, and we're trying to take steps so Long Reach doesn't get a bad name."
The police force will use the $122,000 state grant over the next three years to supplement after-school programs for children and counseling sessions at the church, add a full-time police officer to patrol the village, allow probation officers to monitor criminals more closely and provide for a full-time prosecutor to work with victims.
The department asked the state for $220,000, almost double the amount it received. Livesay had hoped to start a satellite police office in the Long Reach Village Center, an idea that is now on hold.
Many residents say they welcome the additional money to deal with the increase in crime.
"It's not that Long Reach is the crime capital of Howard County," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, who represents Long Reach on the Columbia Council. "We're working to make it a better community and get rid of the nuisance crimes we do have."
Howard crime data for January through April of this year show that among all Columbia villages, Long Reach had the largest number of calls to police for theft, property destruction and disorderly conduct.
But during that period, Long Reach had a total average of 12.8 calls per 100 residents, compared with a total average of 13 per 100 residents for all of Columbia's eight villages. Some newer, wealthier areas of Columbia, such as River Hill village, generate more calls per capita, largely because of a high number of false alarms from home security systems.
Some police officers and village residents say that crime in Long Reach is not bad, considering that the community has a population of 13,150 -- particularly in comparison with more urban areas.
"It's not that we have incredible amounts of robberies or violent crimes in the area," said Sgt. Morris Carroll, who is head of the community policing division. "It's one of the busier areas in Columbia, but its violent crimes just don't compare to Baltimore City or Baltimore County."
Some residents and business owners fear the "hot spot" title will stigmatize the village.
"This 'hot spot' name is going to give Long Reach a bad name," said Jerry Stewart, a manager at Shoe Wizard in the Long Reach Village Center. "People are already shying away from here now, and they shouldn't be.