Trouble in Middle River Vandals and victims: Strong police action needed to defuse simmering feud in eastern Baltimore County.

May 11, 1998

BALTIMORE County police are concerned about a simmering neighborhood feud in Middle River involving residents who fought a NASCAR speedway, a project that has moved to Anne Arundel County. They should be.

Though vicious acts of vandalism, which police say seem to be targeted at speedway opponents, have abated since late March, palpable tension in the community remains.

No suspects have been apprehended. Some residents say they have armed themselves and are seeking the alleged tormentors. The potential for disaster is obvious.

The victims' anger and fear is entirely justified. They have suffered some extremely ugly crimes -- dead cats hurled on front yards, a pet rabbit with its neck broken.

The prevailing theory among neighbors is that these horrors were orchestrated by a tavern owner, resentful because the auto racetrack would have improved business. But police have found no such evidence, other than that the culprits may have socialized there. They also say they have received few complaints about troublemaking at the tavern over the years.

In any event, the reason for any feud at some point becomes less important than the feud itself.

What's relevant now is the bad blood between neighbors, the tavern and the suspected vandals, whom at least one victim says he has identified and plans to track down. Citizens must realize that is a police responsibility. Vigilantism is illegal and often leads to tragedy.

Society would crumble into chaos if people were allowed to take the law into their own hands. The victims in this case cannot say police have left them to their own devices.

Officers continue to investigate and monitor the Bird River Road area. The department must reassure residents that it won't stand for this terrorism. Residents should cooperate with police to help them bring these criminals to justice.

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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