State police initiative targets gang violence

November 05, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

The Maryland State Police will start a monthlong effort to help combat gang-related violence along U.S. 40 in Edgewood, with 10 additional troopers joining Harford County sheriff's deputies and focusing on drug traffic, drunken driving, stolen vehicles and illegal weapons.

Likening gangs to terrorists who "force people to live in fear," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced the initiative Friday -- four days before the election -- before a crowd of about 100 gathered in an Edgewood shopping center.

Surrounded by officers from several local and state agencies, Ehrlich said the patrols will help stem crime in the area -- which has seen a rise in gangs, drug activity and juvenile delinquency.

Some residents expressed mixed feelings about the initiative, a 30-day program that officials say could be extended.

More police is a start but not nearly enough, Wendy Sawyer said.

"We have been trying to get extra protection for years. We are only getting it now because it is an election year," she said.

The Republican governor, who is locked in a tight race with Baltimore mayor and Democrat Martin O'Malley, deflected criticism about what he called the "fortuitous" timing of the announcement. The added patrols come in response to requests from county officials and the Edgewood community, Ehrlich said.

Those requests came to the governor in July, soon after the daytime killing of a 20-year-old man within a few blocks of the sheriff's office southern precinct.

After 30 days, officials will measure results of the additional patrols.

"If it is working, we will extend it," Ehrlich said. "If it's not, we will try a different strategy."

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