Harford County officials announced yesterday that they would beef up patrols in the Edgewood area in response to community outcry over a series of violent crimes, some of them gang-related.
Sheriff R. Thomas Golding said at a news conference that he would reassign seven veteran deputies to the agency's southern precinct, which until now has had no more than 10 deputies on duty during peak evening hours.
The staffing shift follows weeks of complaints in Edgewood, where the daytime shooting death of a 20-year-old man last month capped a string of shocking incidents. Some residents had demanded that the sheriff dispatch a newly sworn class of rookie deputies to the area, but Golding noted yesterday that the officers set to move would collectively bring 27 years of experience.
"We are now, have been and will continue to provide the highest possible service to the citizens of Edgewood," said Golding, speaking from a podium set up on a basketball court with two dozen officers lined up behind him. "We have never turned our backs to the people of this community and will not."
Four of the deputies will join the agency's gang suppression unit, which was formed after the 2004 killing of a 37-year-old father of nine in the Harford Squares neighborhood. The remaining three will supplement the community action response team, and all will work during peak hours, Golding said.
The sheriff and other county officials stressed that the deputy shift was just part of a continuing effort to bolster the community that includes formation of a community council, offering grants to homeowners to fix up their properties and planned construction of a new high school and sheriff's substation.
"Your government has been at work here in Edgewood for some time, and these initiatives that we are announcing here today are part of our larger plan for this community, a plan that will make Edgewood a great place to live, work and play," said County Executive David R. Craig, a Republican.
The sheriff's office has been coming under heavy criticism from Edgewood residents because of the recent incidents. But officials defended the department yesterday, noting that deputies themselves had called in most of the 640 calls for service received in the first six months of the year on Brookside Drive, the street a short distance from the sheriff's office where Kevin Harold Rowlette was killed July 12.
Rowlette's killer remains at large, and officials appealed yesterday for the community's help in catching the firstname.lastname@example.org