Residents, officers to gather for annual Safety Summit

Baltimore County Police officers and southwest area residents will gather to share concerns and safety tips for the upcoming holidays at the second annual Safety Summit Nov. 18 at Christian Temple in Catonsville.

Sherry Welch, event organizer, has worked with representatives from the Wilkens Police Station on the 7 p.m. event as a way to increase communication between officers and civilians.

"The officers will be there to kind of give us an update as to what's happening in the community as far as safety issues go," Welch said.

More than 100 people attended the inaugural summit last year, the Catonsville resident said, and she hopes Wednesday's event will see as much, if not more, community support.

"We would anticipate that we would have people from throughout the southwest area," she said, noting that residents from Arbutus, Lansdowne and Medwick Garth, as well as the Catonsville area, attended the event last year.

Capt. Doug Irwin, commander of the Wilkens Station, said he plans to attend the event and is looking forward to the opportunity to exchange ideas directly with residents.

"We use it to heighten awareness," he said of the summit. "That's our one goal with those sorts of things.

"It's a method by which we communicate," Irwin said. "E-mail is great, but there's nothing better than sitting down with someone across the table and getting perspectives" [ on issues affecting the community.

Irwin said the main point of this year's summit would probably be to encourage residents to be aware of their surroundings when using their cell phones while walking outside after dark.

He said there has been a spike in what criminals are calling "Apple picking" — stealing unwary pedestrians' newer model iPhones and then selling them — and he and his team of officers are working to increase awareness about how to avoid being targeted.

Irwin said groups of young males, usually from Baltimore City, stole cars in order get into the area.

"Then they were robbing as many people of their cell phones as they could in a short period of time," he said.

"Once stolen, cell phones can be dropped off at places like ecoATM. The company has nine kiosks within 10 miles of Baltimore City where one can insert a phone — theoretically an old phone to be recycled — and is instantly awarded a cash payout once the machine assesses its worth," he said.

"I'm by no means blaming the victim," Irwin said. "You should be able to talk on your phone without someone taking it from you.

"You wouldn't walk down the street with $200 in your hand not paying attention," he said. "If you're on your cell phone, at least pay attention to your surroundings."

Welch said such tips help build the community's relationship with police and increase safety in the area.

"I started it [the summit] last year because I think that safety is a mutual responsibility," she said. "We totally expect our police to look out for us. But at the same time, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves as well.

"People want to be engaged, they want to be involved," Welch said. "This is our town, this is our county, and we want to keep it as good as it can be for everyone."

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