It's mid-May, and Maryland State Police Cpl. Daniel Pickett is reviewing crime stats for the first two weeks of the month in Mount Airy: eight arrests, one of them a juvenile; six stops for driving under the influence of alcohol; and six traffic accidents (two involving alcohol).
His troopers responded to 346 calls, about 24 a day, eight per shift. They performed 21 criminal investigations, "everything from deaths all the way down to destruction of property."
The trooper pauses, remembering he's talking to someone from Baltimore. "When I say death investigation, I mean an unattended death. We haven't had any homicides."
Pickett smiles: "This is Mayberry compared to Baltimore."
Welcome to Mount Airy, population 9,200, just off Interstate 70 halfway between Ellicott City and Frederick, policed by Pickett and four troopers, one of the two "resident trooper" programs in Maryland. Unlike most of their colleagues who concentrate on enforcing highway laws, hunting drug couriers and helping local police with big cases, Pickett and his crew are the primary law enforcers in this town that straddles the Carroll and Frederick county lines.
This town has a volunteer fire department but no police force. Because it covers two counties, it's impractical for sheriffs from one county to handle calls on the north side of the street while deputies from another county handle calls on the south side of the street.
So dial 911 in Mount Airy, and a Maryland State trooper responds. Your car is parked for more than two hours on Main Street, a trooper writes the ticket. A car bumps another car and drives away from the parking lot of the local health club, as happened when I was with Pickett on Thursday, and two troopers come.
And Pickett promises to return the next day to review the surveillance tape. Why not? He grew up here, has his family here and he'll be at the club anyway for his morning workout. The victim, the suspect and the cop have one thing in common: their membership card.
Pickett works out of an old red-brick building that used to be the Town Hall in the middle of Main Street, lined with quaint antiques shops, coffee houses and restaurants, some still scarred from a fire two years ago that destroyed a strip of historic buildings.
One desk has a computer for reports from the Carroll County side of town, another desk has a computer for filing reports from the Frederick County side of town. On many streets, if Pickett stops a car on one side he has to go to court in Frederick; the other side means a trip to Westminster.
When a dispatcher sends him on a call - it happened only once on my tour - she dispenses with formal codes and simply alerts him on the radio by saying, "Mount Airy."
While Main Street certainly has that "Mayberry feel," Mount Airy is quickly growing up. Most of it is spread out with sprawling suburban developments covering what Pickett, who is just 32, remembers as lush farmland. You still see working farms, but they're overtaken by new developments of large single-family homes, townhouses and apartment complexes occupied by people who work in Baltimore and Washington.
I started my tour doing something that many Baltimore residents have demanded for decades - we walked. Pickett told me he just launched his "Main Street Initiative" targeting parking scofflaws and people not wearing seat belts to restore some order on this narrow street with perilous intersections.
Pickett works for the state, but the town pays his salary, and he's a one-man show: He writes a monthly crime report for the mayor, speaks at Town Council meetings (which are televised), shows up at every festival, knows when the Rotary Club meets, answers e-mails from residents and even has his name on an electronic billboard on Route 27. His name rhymes with the state's seat belt crackdown slogan - "Pickett, click it or ticket," the sign reads.
Mount Airy's proximity to the interstate gives criminals easy access to convenience stores and shopping plazas. Holdups and thefts from 7-Elevens and gas stations are increasing. Criminals jump off the highway, walk into a store, point a gun at the clerk, take money and in no time, Pickett says, "they're eastbound on 70 headed toward Baltimore."
I ask, "Never westbound on 70 headed toward Frederick?"
"No, no," Pickett responds.
Even out here, the road and crime lead back to Charm City.