The Windsor Valley neighborhood has been the scene of a fatal shooting and four nonfatal stabblings during the past two weeks, part of a larger recent pattern of violence in the Edgewood area of Harford County, but that could change with an investment of millions of dollars by its new owner to revitalize Windsor Valley.
In addition, top police officials said they will start ridding the community of known troublemakers and will continue to monitor two convenience stores next to the community where raids last month resulted in the seizure of suspected illegal synthetic drugs and drug paraphernalia.
"We're going to be able to regrow a strong community in Windsor Valley," said Bryan Shumway, vice president of Wishrock Housing Partners & Investment Group.
Shumway spoke during Thursday night's monthly meeting of the Edgewood Community Council, which was mostly taken up with a discussion about recent serious crimes in the community, especially the fatal shooting followed by four nonfatal stabbings in late June in neighborhoods along Hanson Road that all have a history of violent crime.
Sheriff Jesse Bane and his top commanders, plus State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly, spoke with residents about their concerns. A half dozen Windsor Valley residents also attended, along with a number of religious and civic leaders in Edgewood. The meeting was held at the Harford County Sheriff's Office Southern Precinct in Joppa.
Wishrock, which has offices in Portland, Maine, and Missoula, Mont., purchased 283 out of the 574 townhouse and apartment units in Windsor Valley last week, and company officials plan to eventually purchase the remaining units.
Shumway said company officials plan to invest $13 million in "restoring the dignity of the homes" with major retrofits to parts of the units such as the kitchens, bathrooms and lighting.
The rental housing community, originally called Meadowood, dates to the late 1960s/early 1970s, and has a succession of owners, as well as a long history of criminal activity, including murders, muggings and gang activity. A man was found fatally shot on one of Windsor Valley's sidewalks on June 25.
Capt. James Eyler, commander of the Sheriff's Office's Criminal Investigations Division, said the stabbings, which occurred in three separate incidents over two nights, are not related to the homicide, when he was asked about the crimes by one resident. He said he could not provide more details since all the incidents remain under "active" investigation.
"The short answer would be, 'No,' on that," Eyler said of any relationship. Prior to Thursday, the Sheriff's Office had said it was looking into any possible relationships between the homicide and the stabbings, the latter which may have involved robberies in at least two instances, investigators have said.
Capt. Jon Krass, commander of the Southern Precinct, noted nearly all Part 1 crimes for the Edgewood sector that took place in the first half of 2014 have declined compared to the same period of 2013. Police agencies classify murder/manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson as Part 1 crimes.
There have been two instances of murder or manslaughter in 2014, compared to three for 2013, three rapes for 2014 compared to eight for 2013, 36 burglaries for 2014 compared to 69 in the first half of 2013, according to crime statistics provided by Krass.
He said the only Part 1 crime that has increased from last year is larceny/theft, which increased by 3 percent from 126 to 131 thefts.
Krass said law enforcement officials do not take recent violent events "lightly."
"We are making progress," Krass said. "I think that the deputies and troopers that work in this area are striving to make Edgewood a better community."
Maj. Jack Meckley, who was recently promoted to bureau chief for police services, meaning he oversees the northern and southern precincts, special operations and patrol services, spoke about how resources have been deployed to Edgewood based on detailed analysis of crime data.
He and Krass stressed the need for community assistance in preventing and solving crime, and they lauded those who have helped with investigations and people who call the police when they see or hear something wrong.
Meckley said law enforcement is working with the community and property managers in Windsor Valley. Lynette Barmer, resident services manager for Windsor Valley, noted a private security firm is also keeping watch.
Meckley said law enforcement officials plan to "start identifying some of the troublemakers, and we're going to start getting rid of them."
"I do feel we are in the right track, and I do feel like we are going to have a good summer," he said.
Cassilly addressed raids by the Harford County Task Force on two convenience stores on Hanson Road in June that netted a major haul of drug paraphernalia and the components of synthetic marijuana, or Spice. The raids were announced Tuesday.
The owners of those businesses have not been charged, and the state's attorney stressed they are not guilty unless proven so, but investigators are still monitoring the businesses, and the properties could be seized if there is evidence they were involved in the sales of the merchandise.
"That sent a message all across the county to other merchants," Eyler added.
Shumway said his company will work to augment the "human" security in Windsor Village by installing a high-tech security system with remotely-monitored cameras and loudspeakers, through which security personnel can order people loitering outside at 3 a.m. – a common issue for residents – to move along if they are violating a curfew put in place by the property managers.
Shumway said the security company can alert local law enforcement if there are further problems.
He said the property owners and managers also plan to pursue "a soft approach to building a community" with community events and forums. He also highlighted the Harford County Boys and Girls' Club's Edgewood center in Windsor Valley.
Tim Wills, executive director of the Boys and Girls' Club, said later that the club has had a presence in Windsor Valley's community center for about two years.
Community groups are also working to end crime. Mike Perrone Jr., who runs The Sharing Table coalition of church groups, said the group Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters of Maryland has been staging marches against crime this month and plans to hold more. Perrone is running for the Edgewood area seat on the Harford County Council.
"I think the goal here is that we all have to work together," Lawrence Montgomery, acting chairman of the Edgewood Community Council, said.
This story has been corrected from an earlier version to reflect that the homicide in Edgewood occurred on June 25.