Hampstead

A sign on Main Street welcomes visitors to Hampstead. (Photo by Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun / April 20, 2014)

Melissa Kuchta couldn't be happier. After several years away, she is back where she grew up — Hampstead.

"I am ecstatic to be back," Kuchta said. "Everywhere else is crazy. The crime and the number of people in Sparks and Hunt Valley — sheds and things were broken into.

"I absolutely feel safer," she said, of Hampstead.

Movoto Real Estate, an online real estate brokerage based in San Mateo, Calif., announced last week that Hampstead topped its list of The 10 Safest Places in Maryland.

According to the website, the group researched the 2012 FBI crime reports for towns with a population of at least 5,000 and took into account three criteria: violent crime; property crime and the chance that a resident will be a victim of crime.

Taneytown captured the fifth spot.

"Having two Carroll County municipalities up in top is pretty decent," said Taneytown Police Chief W.E. Tyler. "They (Movoto) did their homework. They used FBI stats. It's not just something they pulled out."

Crime never sleeps, however, Tyler said, and his department works hard.

"Any town is not immune from the criminal element," Tyler said. "Like anything else, there is always something around the bend. We try to be prepared for it, be proactive."

"We have a tremendous police force that is community strong," said Nancy McCormick, the economic development director for Taneytown. "We also have a great neighborhood. People look out for people in this community."

Walking from the grocery store to her home, just a few blocks, Eleanor Graham, of Hampstead, is stopped at least five times by a neighbor saying hello, she said.

"I love it," Graham said, of living off of Main Street. "Everybody knows everybody, pretty much."

Trish Collins grew up in Manchester and now lives on Hampstead's Main Street with her husband and two daughters.

"It is a front porch town. My daughter walks up and down Main Street," Collins said. "I'm cool with it. Everybody knows her."

Kevin Hann, interim town manager for Hampstead, said the town is a good mix of homes, shopping, restaurants and annual festivals such as Hampstead Day and the firemen's carnival.

"We have lots of different little festivals that build the charm of a small town," Hann said. "Our town Police Department works very hard to keep Hampstead safe."

Hampstead's Main Street is getting ready for a revitalization project, with new sidewalks and lighting planned, Hann said.

"We have a lot of things going on," Hann said. "We're very busy here in Hampstead."

Taneytown's street revitalization was completed in 2011, and now its Main Street is bustling, according to McCormick.

"As messy as it was, it attracted a lot more people here," McCormick said. "We call ourselves a small town with a big heart."

For Jim Martin, it is that small town feel that brought him to Hampstead more than five years ago from Bel Air.

"Bel Air is like Baltimore City, way too busy and too much traffic," Martin said. "[Hampstead] is a nice old town. It's a nice place to live."