About half the residents of Guilford, who for a decade have paid for a private security patrol in their neighborhood, are urging the other half to participate -- with everyone paying a higher cost.
About 40 Guilford families hired the first patrols in 1992.
Now, about half of the 700 households in Guilford pay about $250 a year for the service, which provides two private security patrol cars, Guilford Association President Howard Friedel said. He declined to specify the number of hours per week that the patrols are in effect.
Friedel and others say more participants are needed to achieve a goal of round-the-clock patrols in the North Baltimore neighborhood. For the next three weeks, volunteers will be contacting families that don't subscribe and asking them to pitch in at a cost of about $1 a day, Friedel said.
That cost -- about $365 a year -- will enable the neighborhood to afford round-the-clock patrols, he said.
Northern District police Maj. Scott Williams said Guilford is the only neighborhood in the district to hire a private patrol.
Guilford residents Stuart M. and Brenda Brooks have spearheaded the security initiative since its inception in the early 1990s, when a wave of crime disrupted the neighborhood.
The extra security presence has made a difference, Friedel said.
"Crime has been reduced dramatically," he said. "Mostly petty crimes, like mugging and daytime break-ins, are almost completely gone."
So successful was the patrol, he said, that it led to "an interesting problem."
In the past couple of years, crime in Guilford has declined so much that city police no longer assign officers in cruisers to regularly patrol the neighborhood and nearby Oakenshawe. Police confirmed that they no longer assign a regular officer to Guilford.
Friedel said the private patrol performs small but valuable acts that help preserve peace of mind in the community. For example, the patrol keeps track of which families are out of town and watches those houses.
If a resident asks for an escort into a dark home late at night, the patrol will oblige.
Williams, the Northern District major, said he had high praise for the Guilford patrol.
"Anytime you can get additional eyes, the more the better," he said. "It doesn't have to be paid, it can be citizens doing the same thing."
Friedel said he expected the drive to be successful in signing up more families. "We have an esprit de corps here," he said, noting the community's spring garden, newsletters and required maintenance fees.
"It's a heterogeneous community, but everybody has a common interest, so we are banding together so the safest environment can be provided."