More police patrols likely

County plans to announce increase in deputies allotted to Edgewood

July 30, 2006|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

Top county officials plan to announce this week staffing changes that would increase the number of deputies patrolling the Edgewood area, amid criticism that not enough resources are being put into the troubled neighborhood.

County Executive David R. Craig said the changes will probably involve shifting personnel within the Harford County sheriff's office and could include an allocation of new deputies who are completing field training.

The sheriff's office typically has four deputies and two covert units working in the sector that includes Edgewood and Joppatowne. Some say that is not sufficient of violent incidents in the area.

The county has added 40 deputies to the sheriff's office in the last two budget cycles, and County Councilman Dion F. Guthrie and others have repeatedly pressed Sheriff R. Thomas Golding to pledge some of them to the southern precinct.

"The problem is, we need more visibility. Now it looks like we're going to get it," said Guthrie, a Democrat whose district includes Edgewoodand Joppatowne.

Since the daylight shooting of a 20-year-old earlier this month in the Edgewater Village area, officials have held several meetings to try to find solutions.

State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said the county will aggressively enforce a state law that uses civil lawsuits to evict tenants who engage in drug activity, a major part of Edgewood's criminal element.

A juvenile curfew might also be proposed, he said.

Echoing comments from law enforcement officials, Craig defended the county's policing.

"People will get upset because they don't see an officer on their corner where the [drug] buy is taking place," Craig said, "but that's because we're arresting them three blocks away or at their home in a different area."

Despite the planned announcement of staffing changes, Craig would not say whether he thinks additional deputies are needed at the southern precinct station, a converted 7-Eleven on Gateway Drive.

"I've asked for the statistics," Craig said. "It needs to be examined heavily to determine whether we have the right numbers at the right time."

Additional deputies would providde the visible answer many residents and community leaders have been clamoring for.

Since being appointed executive a year ago, Craig and his staff have worked to give the Edgewood, an unincorporated community of more than 23,000 residents a framework to initiate change.

A slogan and logo were designed, and a group consisting of neighborhood, religious, political and business leaders was formed to hold a roundtable discussion on revitalization.

"We need to lay the groundwork for sustained efforts," Craig's chief of staff, Aaron N. Tomarchio, told residents at a meeting at the Edgewood Senior Center. "We are not going to leave you hanging."

Homeowners act

On Thursday, the Watergate North Homeowners Association, which includes homes in the troubled Edgewater development, received $98,000 to finance a road resurfacing on a badly dilapidated stretch of Eloise Lane and Judy Way.

President Keith Staggers said the group recently fired a management company that oversaw the development and has been working on facade improvements.

"We're not asking for handouts. We just want a bit of help and we'll get it done," Staggers said.

Others have derided such efforts, calling for visible action and a beefed-up police presence. Past initiatives have been brushed aside, they have said.

"You've got the slogan; now let's get down to business. ... Forget the roundtable. Get results," said resident Mildred Samy.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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