AN AFTER-SCHOOL recreational program for middle school youngsters and a cleaner village center are among the first results of the Community Policing Program begun in Harper's Choice village this summer.
The program was introduced at a two-day forum in June, led by Howard County police and members of the national Community Policing Consortium.
Anti-crime tactics developed by residents of Harper's Choice will be used as models for other communities.
During the summer, volunteers formed a task force facilitated by Helen Sutusky, a former village board member, and the Rev. Randy Reinhardt, senior pastor of Covenant Community Church, which holds Sunday services at Kahler Hall.
Since the last meeting of the task force this month, two shootings have occurred not far from the village center.
Representatives of the Howard police force have scheduled a meeting with area residents at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Swansfield Neighborhood Center to discuss the incidents.
Task force member Mark McCoy, who owns the Parcel Plus in Harper's Choice Village Center, said the shootings may have a positive effect on the work of the task force.
"It makes us feel we have to be more diligent and get more people involved," he said.
Sutusky questioned whether the kinds of projects envisioned by the task force will have much effect on late-night crimes.
George Stuehler, a resident of Hobbit's Glen elected to the Village Board last spring, said the task force cannot eliminate crime or guns.
"Our goal is to make a substantial improvement in our portion of the world," he said.
A mission statement developed by the task force this month defines the group's purpose as "enhancing the quality of life through collaborative community efforts."
Four subcommittees are addressing specific topics: image, perceptions and environment; community youth; village center; and law enforcement and criminal justice.
The community youth group suggested after-school activities for youngsters who hang out near village center. A drop-in recreational program began this week at Kahler Hall.
Run by the Columbia Teen Center, the program operates from 2: 45 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays when school is in session.
Rene Buckmon, manager of the Teen Center, said the program is geared to middle school students and ninth-graders.
Activities planned include field trips and classes.
The registration fee is $10. Additional fees will be charged for some activities.
Registration forms are available at Kahler Hall or by calling the Teen Center at 410-992-3726.
The village center work group conducted a walk-through of the center one night last month.
The group identified areas with poor lighting, trash or overgrown plants.
Members contacted the Columbia Association, which cleaned up the area between the Safeway and Florence Bain Senior Center.
The work group has also contacted Columbia Management Inc., which manages the center, to discuss installing better lighting and more trash receptacles.
The image group is devising strategies for keeping neighbors informed about the program.
The enforcement group is exploring ways to ensure enforcement of the law through the court system.
"We're excited," said Stuehler. "It's something we think the police have done a wonderful job on. We're starting something that's working quite well and that will have positive effects."
He added, "At each meeting, we hope more people will come and get involved in the work groups."
The next meeting of the task force will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at Kahler Hall. Residents are welcome to attend.
The task force is joining the Harper's Choice Community Association and the village center merchants in sponsoring Applefest on the Square -- games and contests from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 17 at Kahler Hall.
Members of the task force will provide information about the work groups and sign up new members.
"It's a very interesting grass-roots type of movement," said Wendy Tzuker, Harper's Choice village manager. "We're taking back our square."
Join the Girl Scouts
Columbia resident Clarissa Ferraris, chairwoman of Girl Scout Community 56, is recruiting girls from kindergarten through 12th grade for troops being formed in the villages of Wilde Lake and Harper's Choice.
Community 56 includes the school districts of Bryant Woods, Running Brook, Longfellow and Swansfield elementary schools; Harper's Choice and Wilde Lake middle schools; and Wilde Lake High School.
Adult volunteers are needed. Training is provided.
Girls in other areas can contact the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland at 410-358-9711 for troop information.
Artist depicts county
Works by Longfellow resident Kelmie Snider are being featured at the Artists Gallery.
The show, "Vanishing Howard County," opened Monday and will continue through Oct. 23.
A free reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
The exhibit includes oil and mixed-media paintings, as well as painted furniture.