Officials open ninth PAL center in Woodmoor

January 25, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Police, community and county leaders gathered in Woodmoor yesterday to open the county's newest Police Athletic League center, a facility that officials hope will help curb juvenile crime.

"We are giving an alternative to some of the things happening in the street," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "We must capture our youth and give them the opportunity."

The center cost $1.2 million, with the cost being split by the county and the state. The neighborhood where it was built was recently awarded a grant under the state's HotSpot program, an anti-crime initiative.

The one-story building contains a study room, playroom -- with a pool table and other games -- and an auditorium. A kitchen and office space are also included.

County leaders called the centers an effective juvenile crime-fighting tool. Such crime has declined as much as 33 percent in some neighborhoods where centers have opened, they said.

In 1999, 4,264 youngsters participated in activities at the county's centers, police said.

The Woodmoor center is open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays for youngsters ages 7 to 12, and from 6: 15 p.m. to 8 p.m. for teen-agers 13 to 17.

Program coordinator Iris Bailey and police Officer Leroy Staton Jr. will run the center. "We get a lot of latchkey kids," Bailey said. "I think they all learn something from one another."

The Woodmoor center is the county's ninth. Officials said yesterday they plan to open three more by spring.

County officials said they will meet and work with community members to make the program a success.

"It is a commitment from all of us," said Baltimore County police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan.

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