County sees need for HotSpot

Brooklyn Heights to be next candidate in anti-crime program

Staff prepares application

Officials say funds would help efforts already under way

August 19, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Brooklyn Heights has spent years battling crime, litter and unkempt rental properties.

Now, Anne Arundel County wants the neighborhood just south of the Baltimore City line to become a "HotSpot," eligible for extra state money for law enforcement and new community programs.

County officials say that a "HotSpot" designation will complement improvement efforts under way in the area. They include an overhaul of an aging water system, more aggressive zoning enforcement and a project to transform the old Brooklyn Park High School into a new middle school, community arts center and senior nutrition site.

"There's a lot going on there to improve the environment and quality of life," said Marvin Bond, the county executive's chief of staff.

Launched two years ago by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the HotSpot program teams police, probation officers and community members to reduce crime in targeted neighborhoods.

In its first 18 months, crime decreased in 24 of the 36 HotSpot areas selected, and in 19 of them crime dropped 10 percent or more. State officials have said they will spend $3.5 million to double the number of designated "HotSpots" to 72 by the end of the year.

At the request of County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle and the county's General Assembly delegation, County Executive Janet S. Owens has asked state officials to include Brooklyn Heights in the HotSpot program. Two other Anne Arundel communities -- Orchards on the Severn on Pioneer Drive and Eastport Terrace in Annapolis -- are already in the program.

"The crime in that area is much higher than the rest of the county," Beidle said of Brooklyn Heights. "It also has a large amount of rental properties that bring a lot of transients through the area, and those people don't become committed to the community."

County police, zoning, health and probation officials are working on the HotSpots application for Brooklyn Heights, which is due Sept. 28. Among the most important criteria for inclusion in the program is the severity or fear of crime in an area, and a community's strategy for reducing crime.

"HotSpots is a tool, the water and sewer project is a tool, to uplift as best as possible the whole area," Bond said.

Since March, the county has taken a tougher approach toward zoning enforcement in Brooklyn Heights. Three inspectors are now assigned to the area instead of one, and they're taking a harder line on repeat offenders.

"We're making immediate referrals to the [county] office of law, and we're not as likely to grant extensions," said Pam Jordan, a county zoning enforcement supervisor.

During her campaign for a council seat last fall, Beidle said the topic of zoning violations came up frequently at Brooklyn Heights neighborhood meetings.

"The problems were mostly with rental properties -- trashy yards, abandoned vehicles," she said. "It's a problem for people who have lived there for 40 years and have lovely homes."

Joseph Collini, president of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association, said stepped-up zoning enforcement has made a difference, but that the neighborhood needs more help.

"It seems that for every problem solved, another one rears its ugly head," Collini said. "It's a constant battle. We're able to keep up, but never get ahead."

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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