With a stabbing and three shootings in parts of Edgewood in less than a month, a top Harford County Sheriff's Office official told members of the Edgewood Community Council Wednesday that deputies are working hard to address the issue of more violent crime in the community.
The most recent incident was Monday, when a 15-year-old boy's abdomen was grazed by a bullet fired during an argument involving him and several other people. Another 15-year-old was arrested in connection with the shooting and faces juvenile charges.
"We are clearly aware of it," Capt. Jonathan Krass of the Southern Precinct said. "It is not for a lack of effort on our part... I have deputies that are in that area extensively."
Krass said deputies are conducting frequent patrols of the areas where violent incidents have taken place, such as Grempler Way and Brookside Drive, plus the Sunrise community. He said "multiple divisions" of the Sheriff's Office are also looking at the issue.
Jansen Robinson, chairman of the community council, stressed the police alone cannot resolve the crime issue, which has given Edgewood the reputation of being an unsafe community.
"You have to be a mind reader to go out here and look at somebody and say, 'I think you're going to commit a crime,' " he said.
Robinson said locking up more people would only create resentment toward law enforcement and leave more residents with criminal records that would prevent them from getting jobs, and thus turning to crime.
"I think that there's another side of this equation that we have to address," Robinson continued. "It's not just the police."
He said there must be methods of helping people with criminal records find gainful employment, and the county must have laws to create greater accountability for landlords renting to "transient" tenants who "don't have a vested interest in the community."
County Councilman Dion Guthrie, who represents the Edgewood area along with Joppa and Joppatowne, said later in the meeting that he plans to push a bill later this year to enforce better housing standards.
His legislation, which he called a "livability code," attracted intense opposition from Harford County's real estate community when he introduced it in the past and it essentially got studied to death.
Del. Glen Glass, who represents the Route 40 corridor of Harford County in Annapolis said a "good and strong economy" is the best way to defeat crime. He also supports developing state policies to expunge certain crimes from records.
Others attending Wednesday's meeting also suggested forming "community action groups" to support law enforcement's efforts and greater youth outreach.
Edgewood resident Mildred Samy, co-founder of the group Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters of Maryland, said only parts of her community are known for violent crime, giving the rest of Edgewood a bad name.
She said community leaders should "focus on the problem areas; then all of Edgewood will prosper."
"We've got to elevate and help people obtain a standard of living that's decent and until we fix these socioeconomic problems in these sections, we're going to continue to let this problem run amok," Samy explained.
Daphne Alston, who co-founded the MOMS organization, suggested later during Wednesday's meeting the community council hold a "community involvement night," which it has done in the past.
Alston said it is important to reach out to local youths as they begin their summer vacations.
"We have really got to get our here and talk about our youth," she said.
The council must still set a date, but it is expected to take place this month.
With Harford County "far above the state average" in the number of cases of heart disease and other chronic health issues, representatives of Upper Chesapeake Health are working to reach out to residents, especially those who are low income, and get them the proper information and treatment.
Vickie Bands, director of community outreach for Upper Chesapeake, said Wednesday that ZIP codes in Edgewood, as well as Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, have the highest incidents of heart disease and other health problems, based on admissions to Upper Chesapeake's hospitals in Bel Air and Havre de Grace.
"We came here tonight hoping that this might be an entry for us," she said of the desire of the provider's staff to work with Edgewood community representatives.
Bands said Upper Chesapeake provides a number of services, including mobile clinics, and is already working with the Havre de Grace Housing Authority to reach residents in the most need.
She said Upper Chesapeake staffers want to "really be able to reach the people that we need to be reaching, to get them better educated, get them screened and get them medical care if needed."
More information can be found online at http://www.uchs.org, in Maryland's Health Matters, the quarterly magazine published by the University of Maryland Medical System, or by calling Upper Chesapeake's HealthLink division at 1-800-515-0044.
Maureen Eller, who lives in Forest Hill but resided in Edgewood for about 10 years, introduced her forthcoming publication Wednesday, Southern County Magazine.
Eller, who will be publishing the free quarterly magazine, plans to release the first issue in late August. The publication will highlight human interest stories about communities south of I-95, including Joppa/Joppatowne, Edgewood and Aberdeen Proving Ground.
"It is a magazine that talks about the wonderful things in the community... I'm hoping that it will encourage tourism into your area, and tourism includes people who live there as well," Eller said.
She said she has been working with Guthrie and members of the council in recent weeks to promote the magazine and get it up and running.
She encouraged local businesses to advertise, and members of the community to help with writing articles, contributing photographs, distributing copies and developing story ideas.
Eller said she was inspired by reading about council initiatives to change the perception of Edgewood, such as the upcoming EdgeWoodstock music festival this summer.
"I do want to be part of the change that's happening here as well," she said.
Robinson said Edgewood, home to the military's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center for researching methods of protection from chemical and biological attacks, is poised to become the national center for chemical and biological research.
"This is an opportunity to share with the best and brightest... that Edgewood, the southern part of Harford County, is a good place to live work and play," he said of the magazine.