Shooting fears ease in Howard, persist in Arundel

Police and schools remain on alert

sports curtailed

`We're trying to stay invisible'

October 19, 2002|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, Julie Bykowicz and Larry Carson | Jamie Smith Hopkins, Julie Bykowicz and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In Anne Arundel and Howard counties, along the edge of the sniper horror, normal is a question of proximity.

Police are working overtime in both counties to keep up with hundreds of calls about suspicious sightings, a challenge that Howard's police chief calls worse than the 2001 anthrax scare.

But in Howard County folks are cautiously resuming their fall activities, from weekend sports to ghost tours. In Anne Arundel, less than five miles from the Bowie middle school where a 13-year-old boy was shot Oct. 7, fear of violence has a tighter hold.

"We're trying to stay invisible," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens. "I mean that in all seriousness."

The differences show in the public schools.

Both counties are keeping students inside during recess. Still, Howard now allows off-campus mentorship and work-study programs, and its sports teams are playing again.

Anne Arundel schools scrapped all outdoor activities this weekend. Many homecoming games and dances have been rescheduled; some were canceled.

The shootings have affected schools in countless, unprecedented ways, said Michael Walsh, an Anne Arundel schools spokesman. Parents, who must deal with cooped-up children and fewer after-school activities, have generally been understanding, he said.

"They're appreciative of us erring on the side of safety," Walsh said. "Everyone feels a sense of vulnerability when these events occur. They want to keep their relations close."

Said Owens: "This is real to kids in a way that anthrax was not. It really hit kids when they heard a child was shot at school."

It's also a bigger strain for Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay, who said the anthrax scare last year can't compare: "This has become larger than that, only because it's being sustained over such a long period of time."

His department responded to nearly 1,000 calls in the past week about white vans, people wearing camouflage and other things residents think might be related to the extended crisis.

Tougher schedules

Officers are giving up days off and working extra shifts to staff increased patrols, said Howard police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.

In Anne Arundel, officers have shifted from 8 1/2 - to 12-hour days and plan to continue that way until the sniper is arrested.

People notice the change. Elkridge resident Bob Baker is used to one police officer observing some high school games as a crowd-control measure. But last weekend as his freshman daughter played a field hockey game, he saw two officers actively patrolling the periphery.

"They're trying to head off any problems," he said.

Recreational leagues are back on the fields again in both counties, a relief to kids who saw their season slipping away.

The Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County has about 220 games scheduled this weekend and is returning to normal after several days of practice were scrapped last week because of the sniper.

Special Olympics Howard County had to skip practices four days last week. A golf competition the participants were going to attend in Olney last weekend was canceled.

"It was very, very disappointing," said Baker, the group's director. "But for the most part, we are back on schedule."

Ghost tours booked up

Ghost tours running tonight in historic Ellicott City are booked solid - and none of the 500-plus people who signed up for "haunted ruins" events nearby has canceled.

"We just need to move on and continue what we are doing," said Jacquelyn Galke, executive director of the Patapsco Female Institute, whose ruins tours run over the next two weeks.

But students aren't playing tennis or going outside for recess anymore at the Chinese Language School of Columbia.

Howard might be farther from the shootings than Anne Arundel, but not by much.

"The sniper is on everybody's mind," said Principal Yen Li.

Sun staff writers Tricia Bishop, Liz Kay and Fay Lande contributed to this article.

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