Warm and cool on HotSpots

Two neighborhoods: While reactions differ, fighting crime is more vital than guarding image.

August 23, 1999

A TELEVISION commercial a few years back popularized the slogan, "Image is everything." Some residents of Harper's Choice in Columbia seem to agree. They have opposed pursuing state resources to fight crime Maryland "HotSpots," because they fear their village would suffer from such a designation.

No such qualms are evident a dozen miles east in Brooklyn Heights in Anne Arundel County's industrial north end. The neighborhood is also a candidate for HotSpot help.

Both communities are mature suburbs, which, as urbanologists point out, suffer from problems more akin to those in cities than in more distant, newer suburbs.

Harper's Choice would be advised to follow Brooklyn Heights' lead. Police last year answered nearly 500 calls in Harper's Choice, one-third more than in two other Columbia villages considered for the crime-fighting program. It's too late to worry about image -- some people already are calling the area, prematurely, a slum. Rather than get bogged down over labels, the community should rally behind any effective effort to repel crime.

The HotSpot program, an initiative of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, aims to stabilize troubled communities and those teetering on the edge. Two-thirds of the 36 neighborhoods in the program have seen reductions in crime. With $3.5 million allocated this year, the program will double to 72 sites. Participants design their own crime prevention strategies, including drug treatment and crackdowns, and after-school activities.

In Harper's Choice, where the village center was recently remodeled, and Brooklyn Heights, where an old school is being transformed into a community center, good things are already happening.

They could be complemented by a HotSpots program, which, if successful, will allay future qualms about image.

Pub Date: 8/23/99

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