Pennsylvania Ave. group to discuss crime tonight

July 10, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Crime prevention proposals - including beefing up a police presence - will be discussed tonight by the Lower Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative, a group working to revitalize the troubled Westminster neighborhood.

Carter L. Clews, a member of the organization's advisory committee, has been passionate in his belief that having more police officers in sight and in residence on Pennsylvania Avenue would drive off illicit activity. His is one of several recommendations the group will consider.

The neighborhood, from Union Street to Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, has problems with drug trafficking, vandalism, prostitution and burglary. The 40-member Lower Pennsylvania group formed last month is made up of government officials, business associations, residents and churches. The meeting at 7 tonight will mark the third time the group has met.

Other crime prevention recommendations include keeping a detailed arrest inventory, reinforcing a citizens' block watch, supporting the Westminster Police Department's community policing initiative and looking for economic subsidies for police housing in the lower Pennsylvania Avenue corridor.

Although police maintain a presence on the avenue, where many know beat officers by first names, residents aren't satisfied.

In response, Chief Roger G. Joneckis said he has increased patrols in recent weeks. Since April 26, he said, officers have worked an extra 162 hours on foot and bicycle patrols along Pennsylvania Avenue and surrounding streets.

In its second meeting two weeks ago, the group focused on housing issues, with members saying they want stricter building code enforcement.

Many citations for code violations are handed out in the neighborhood. The biggest problem, residents said, is the proliferation of single-family homes that have been illegally turned into de-facto boarding houses with many occupants. That, they said, has spawned the kind of environment where crime thrives. The meeting will be held at the John Street firehouse. In place of Westminster Common Council President Damian L. Halstad, Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro will oversee the meeting.

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