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Community groups unite against crime for National Night Out

Two years ago, after a string of auto thefts and other crime in the neighborhood, the Medwick Garth Community Association was born.

On Aug. 8, residents of the small community tucked in between Paradise and the Baltimore City border will join with more than 37 million Americans to celebrate National Night Out, a nationwide event for communities to show a unified front against crime.

Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, "a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs," according to the group's website, National Night Out began in 1984 and is designed to promote relationships and partnerships within neighborhoods and between police and community groups.

About 35 community organizations will partner with police and fire units around Baltimore county to stand against crime.

"It has grown from 2.7 million Americans participating in 400 communities in 23 states to now over 37 million people in 15,000 communities in every state," said Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Louise Rogers-Feher.

"The goal is very simple," Rogers-Feher said. "Crime is not welcome. Criminals are not welcome. And we will fight to keep our communities safe.

"We work with the citizens of our county to help them have safer communities," she said of the police. "And they work with us because we can't be everywhere."

Locally, the Westchester C.O.P and the Kensington Improvement Association will both have meet and greet cookouts and block parties beginning at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Westchester Elementary School and on College Road, respectively, in an effort to promote partnerships between police and citizens.

Concerned Citizens of Catonsville will also host a meet and greet cookout, starting at 6 p.m., at the Banneker Center at Wesley Avenue and Main Street.

"They come visit and it's like a meet and greet," Rogers-Feher said of the police visits. "A lot of times people only see the police in a car.

"This is a way to see a police officer as a human being who has the welfare of the community at heart," she said.

The Medwick Garth Community Association has been working with police for the past two years to do just that.

"Our hope is to continue our mission and vision, which is to keep it a safe community," said Mary Lynn Clark, vice-president of the Medwick Garth Community Association.

The community association was started with the primary goal of forming a Citizens on Patrol unit and acquiring proper signage to broadcast it throughout the neighborhood.

"The whole thing was geared toward crime," Clark said of the association. "That was one of the biggest things with becoming an association, so we could get those signs up.

"Last year for National Night Out, we had already accomplished so much with crime," she said. "This year, we're trying to make it bigger and better."

This year's event in Medwick Garth will feature representatives from both Baltimore County and Baltimore City Police and Baltimore County Fire Department will bring one of their fire trucks to the event as well.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. and, after sharing literature about police and fire safety and some socializing, everyone in attendance will gather at 5512 Medwick Garth South for a unified patrol of the neighborhood, Clark said.

"The plan is, get as many people in the neighborhood out, we'll meet down at the entrance to our neighborhood ... and then we're going to talk a walk," she said. "We're going to walk our streets and our alleys.

"And we're trying to get other neighbors who can't walk with us to either leave their porch light on or maybe sit on their porch," she said.

The walk will not only promote the neighborhood's C.O.P. unit, which currently has about 23 trained members, but also present a unified force to potential criminals.

"We've stopped a lot of things from happening, where we've seen kids in neighbors' yards getting ready to take bikes and other neighbors jump into action and stop them," Clark said. "The whole point we got started was to keep this a safe neighborhood that people want to live in."

Officer Bill Rubie, part of the community outreach program at the Wilkens Police Station, said organizations like Clark's are the driving force behind National Night Out.

"These communities that start up a good association have these events, they're a strong community," Rubie said.

"It kind of unifies a neighborhood where they stand tall against crime," he said. "It lets the criminals know that this is a close neighborhood.

"The educate each other," Rubie said. "They know that they can count on each other to keep an eye out for reach other."

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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