HotSpot crime-fighting fund increase awaited

Glendening budget would double sites

Howard could add 1

January 24, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Howard County may get state funds this year for another anti-crime "HotSpot," a three-year initiative in which police and other law enforcement officials target a community and tailor a comprehensive prevention and enforcement strategy to it.

The budget unveiled this month by Gov. Parris N. Glendening includes $3.5 million to double the number of HotSpots throughout the state from 36 to 72.

Howard, which has a HotSpot in Columbia's Long Reach Village, would get at least one more if the General Assembly approves the funding this spring, said Adam Gelb, policy director for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who developed the prototype for the HotSpot initiative.

County officials were hesitant Friday to say which communities might make good candidates for the money.

Ultimately, County Executive James N. Robey would select the site with the advice of Police Chief Wayne Livesay and a cross section of community leaders.

Selection criteria include the rate of -- and fear of -- crime and the strength of the community's proposed "plan of action."

"It's worked well in Long Reach," Livesay said of the initiative. "As long as we can fund an officer with it, we'll try to get it. It seems to help a lot."

Other counties, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Harford, would get additional HotSpots grants under the administration's proposed budget, as would Baltimore City.

Del. Shane Pendergrass, who represents east Columbia, said another HotSpot in the 87,000-resident planned community would be appropriate given the recent string of crimes there, including the shooting of a pizza delivery driver and several armed robberies and attempted armed robberies.

"Practically any community in America today has problems with crime," said Pendergrass, head of the county's House delegation. "We're actually doing pretty well [in Howard], but we too have problems, and if we can have help, I think most people would rather have the help and make sure that the problems shrink instead of grow."

The vice chair of the Oakland Mills Village Board, Earl Jones, who has been at the forefront of that village's efforts to address crime and safety issues, said Oakland Mills should consider applying. He plans to raise the issue at the next meeting of the village's newly formed anti-crime work group.

The three-year grants, which vary in amount, would be used for, among other things, new community police officers and prosecutors, youth crime and drug prevention programs, increased supervision of adult and juvenile offenders on probation, and citizen patrol groups.

The average amount available for each community is about $100,000 a year.

Despite some residents' concerns about the stigma of living in a HotSpot, police and village leaders in Long Reach hail it as a success. Gone is the open-air drug market on Tamar Drive; gone is the sense of decline in the village center, which was recently renovated.

"The HotSpot has worked for us," said John Snyder, vice chair of the Long Reach Village Board. "Our experience is that being honest and facing the problems and not worrying too much about the public relations aspect of it brings you to a resolution faster.

Long Reach is in the second year of its grant.

As part of the initiative, police opened a satellite station in the village center and assigned Officer Lisa Bridgeforth to patrol the area. Officials from the Howard County state's attorney's office, the state Parole and Probation Office and the state Department of Juvenile Justice also work at the substation.

"It works," Capt. Mike Kessler, commander of the Southern District, told Oakland Mills residents at an anti-crime meeting last week. "Working together works."

Sun staff writers Del Quentin Wilber and Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 1/24/99

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