Anti-crime program dedicated in 'Hot Spot' Caseworkers, police team to catch violators in Essex

March 27, 1998|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

The third of Baltimore County's three "Hot Spot" community anti-crime centers was formally dedicated in Essex yesterday with help from a flock of state and local politicians, a neighborhood school choir and homemade hors d'oeuvres.

A crowd of 200 people clustered around the converted townhouse at 1043 Punjab Drive to hear speeches by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and several state workers assigned to the center.

The Deep Creek Community Center is one of 35 centers in Maryland opened as part of the state's "Hot Spot" anti-crime initiative. The centers have been placed in neighborhoods troubled by crime, and they pair police with probation caseworkers to enforce probation and catch violators before they commit crimes.

"This new Hot Spots substation will help make Deep Creek a safer community," Glendening told the crowd.

The center, which opened in December, houses seven parole and probation agents, one juvenile justice caseworker and representatives of several social agencies. The adult-case agents each handle about 50 cases and the juvenile caseworker has between 15 and 20. All cases involve community residents. Two other similar centers are located in the county, one in the Hillendale area and one in Riverview.

A police officer from Baltimore County's Essex Precinct is assigned to accompany the agents on home visits and curfew checks.

Townsend, who has led the anti-crime effort during Glendening's term, said the Hot Spot program, which began in September, is vital to fighting crime because the community participates.

"Our communities have been the sleeping giants in the fight against crime," she said yesterday. "This brings them back to life."

Capt. Jim Johnson, who heads the Essex Precinct, said it appears the center, funded with state and federal grants totaling $218,000, is having positive effects on Deep Creek.

"There's been a 17 percent reduction in burglary, a 50 percent reduction in auto theft," Johnson said, noting police statistics comparing the first three months of last year with the first three months of this year.

One important element for his officers, he said, has been funding from the Hot Spot program that allows police to spend additional time in the community.

One resident said the center seems to be working, but plenty is left to do.

As her two children helped themselves to cake, celery sticks with peanut butter and grapes under a tent, Trinity Herold kept a watchful eye over them.

"There has been a slight improvement," Herold said. "But it's going to take more time."

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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