A busload of Harford County government officials descended Thursday morning on an Edgewood neighborhood that has experienced several recent shootings, yet another effort to publicize their concern about the situation.
Included in the group were the county executive, sheriff, county council members, department heads and a state senator who is running for county executive. In addition to stopping in the heart of the area where the latest violence occurred, the group drove through other high crime neighborhoods.
Following recent shootings on Grempler Way that included one murder, Sheriff Jesse Bane and County Executive David Craig pledged to stand by Edgewood and drive the criminal element out, while also identifying causes and solutions to the crime problems.
Bane, Craig, County Council President Billy Boniface, Councilman Dion Guthrie and Councilman Jim McMahan joined Edgewood community members and police officers from the Harford County Sheriff's Office on the walk through and bus tour, as did most of Craig's top department heads and State Sen. Barry Glassman, who is running for county executive in 2014.
Sgt. Mark Fox from the Violent Street Crimes Unit led the tour, telling participants on the bus about criminal activities in each neighborhood they were passing through and what police were doing to combat the crime.
The bus was an air-conditioned blue Harford Transit Link bus, which took the tour participants from county offices in Bel Air to Edgewood's neighborhoods, passing through Brookside Drive and then Judy Way before stopping on Grempler Way.
Fox pointed out "cut-throughs," or gaps in rows of houses that allow people easy access in and out of the neighborhoods.
"You have the criminal element using them and you have the community using them to get to the shopping center," Fox said, noting that effective solutions must minimize the use of those areas by criminals while not negatively affecting their use by law-abiding members of the community.
Daphne Alston, the co-founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters of Maryland, said that the community was aware of the issues, and had heard a lot of talk, but needs some action.
"I'm just making sure [working on cut-throughs] is not the only solution," Alston said.
Fox noted her concern, and said that community involvement was essential in fighting crime, and recognized the dangers involved.
"As police, we understand that when we're investigating, we need the help of the community," Fox said. "We understand that when we're here investigating, coming up to a police officer and talking to them; there might be problems with that."
Fox noted there are options to speak to and share information with the police anonymously.
"It takes a community effort to eliminate crime or at least get a hold on it," Fox said.
Fox also pointed out the cameras attached to streetlights on Brookside Drive across from Grempler Way.
"[The camera system] has helped, and somewhat displaces the activity, but the more cameras we have, the better," Fox said.
McMahan said Edgewood is being maligned for events in one small area like Grempler Way.
"It's disingenuous to the good people of Edgewood to always be labeled because of two bad neighborhoods," McMahan said. "It's like cancer. You don't kill the patient to remove the cancer, you surgically remove the cancer."