Don't dismiss crime fears Howard County: Some Columbia residents, like city counterparts, afraid to leave homes after dark.

September 25, 1998

IT WOULD be easy to dismiss the amount of crime that occurs in Columbia as insignificant compared to all that goes on in neighboring big cities. But that perspective would be the wrong one.

Howard County police are learning that residents of some Columbia neighborhoods are as fearful to come out of their homes as residents of the toughest streets in Baltimore or Washington.

Two recent shootings within 24 hours of each other in Harper's Choice village had people talking about what it is really like to live there. Some said gunfire has become a familiar sound. Residents complained of loitering teen-agers and gangs. Open-air drug activity has become all too common.

Howard County police have increased their presence in Harper's Choice, Long Reach and other areas of Columbia to discourage criminal activity. A police substation was opened in the Long Reach village center. Fighting crime after the fact, however, is only part of the answer. Much more must be done in neighborhoods where people are afraid to walk outside their homes after dark.

Modern policing requires officers to help neighborhoods solve problems that create conditions that allow crime to thrive. Police and Columbia officials should take whatever additional steps they can to reduce crime. More academic and recreation programs may be needed to keep young people out of trouble. XTC They may need jobs. County officials who would strongly consider buying farmland to preserve it from development should be no less willing to make an investment in young people to keep them from turning down a self-destructive path.

No part of Columbia has an overwhelming crime problem. But if the issues that lead to crime aren't addressed effectively, some of its neighborhoods could become as unattractive as any ghetto. Officials and residents can't allow that to happen.

Pub date 9/25/98

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