By Brian Conlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:20 PM EDT, August 8, 2011
During the five years Susan Larsen has lived south of Frederick Road in Paradise, she said she has noticed an uptick in crime and vandalism sweeping through her neighborhood.
When she heard that the home of one of her neighbors had its door kicked in at 5 p.m. with a mother and baby inside, Larsen sprang into action.
The result was the start of the Cherry Ridge Citizens on Patrol.
"It was kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back," Larsen said.
"Unfortunately, we're right on the border of west Baltimore," Larsen explained about where the crime comes from. "There are a couple of properties in the area that have some, I don't know how to put it, undesirable residents that tend to draw undesirable persons."
The community already had a Facebook page to keep tabs on the happenings in the community, Larsen said.
It soon will have a more visible presence in the form of a C.O.P. group.
The group's first meeting at the Arbutus Library attracted about 40 people from the three streets the C.O.P. will monitor, Cherrydell, Garden Ridge and Mount Ridge roads, according to Larsen.
"Catonsville is one of those communities that needs the attention of its members to keep it a great place to live," said Larsen, who noted she had to search the library for more chairs because she expected only 10 people at the meeting.
"It was a really great way to get to know some neighbors I never met," she said.
During the meeting, the group discussed the neighborhood's issues.
They also heard from Paul Buker, a retired Baltimore police officer and founder of the Westchester C.O.P. in that western Catonsville community, about getting a neighborhood watch started.
Soon after, Larsen contacted the Baltimore County Police Department and took the steps to become a C.O.P.
On Aug. 17, the group will meet with police at Emanuel United Methodist Church, at 6517 Frederick Road, at 7 p.m. to train volunteers for the patrol force, which travels the neighborhood and reports criminal activity to the police.
John Vogelpohl, a resident of Cherrydell Road for 20 years, said 12 people have signed up to patrol the neighborhood.
Vogelpohl works as the director of security for a business in Baltimore and will head the patrol group.
He said he hasn't seen much more crime in the area than in the past, but having a network of neighbors could bring issues to light.
One of his first orders of business is obtaining the area's crime statistics from the police, he said.
"We just want to see what kind of crime pattern we have in the area, then we'll adapt to that," Vogelpohl said. "Unfortunately, we're in a reactive mode right now. There's crime in the area, and we react to it.
"We want to go to more of a proactive mode."
Vogelpohl said fighting crime starts with fortifying the area with patrols and encouraging people to be on the lookout for unusual cars and people in the neighborhood.
Though it is just getting off the ground, Larsen already has plans for what she hopes the C.O.P. will accomplish.
"(I hope it) reduces crime on the streets, and improves the safety and standard of living," Larsen said.
"And keep our slice of Paradise a great place to live and a nice place to raise our kids."
This story has been updated.