Policing Columbia

Howard County: Broaden police authority, but homeowners association must add security, too.

February 05, 1999

THE PLEA OF Columbia village officials for more patrols by Howard County police is understandable. With nearly 90,000 residents, unincorporated Columbia is a city in every respect except legal designation.

But it is a community without a police force that must take law enforcement measures beyond the meager steps of its governing homeowners association.

Toward that end, the Columbia Council next Thursday should give Howard County police more authority over the 3,100 acres of open space Columbia owns.

But the council, for its part, should increase the security it provides those often secluded areas. The county police force is not big enough to greatly increase patrols.

The council is weighing a resolution seeking Title 19 designation for most of Columbia's parks, pathways and other open areas. Title 19 is a county ordinance that gives police authority to patrol and make arrests on designated private land. Police can limit the hours in which that property can be used for any activity. Village centers and other areas often used at night would be excluded.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay says he supports Title 19 expansion, but added that he would not patrol the open space regularly. County Executive James N. Robey says the county couldn't afford to double its force to patrol the new areas.

The concerns about manpower are legitimate, but Columbia is part of Howard County.

If more officers are needed to fight crime anywhere in the county, they should be requested in the budget. The quality of life in Columbia continues to have great impact on the county's ability to attract business and residents.

But the Columbia Association must do more, too. The CA budget should include more money for private unarmed security to monitor Columbia's pathways and streets. They could contact police when officers are needed.

Pub Date: 2/05/99

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