Grempler Way walk through

County Executive David Craig, center, is joined by Planning Director Pete Gutwald, left and County Treasurer Kathryn Hewitt, right, during Thursday's tour on Grempler Way in Edgewood. (Hafiz Rashid for The Aegis, Patuxent Homestead / July 17, 2013)

In recent history, the territory bordered by Baltimore County, Aberdeen Proving Ground, I-95 and the south shore of the Bush River has been the most densely populated part of Harford County.

There's a good reason for that. The community known as Joppatowne was one of the early large-scale communities in Maryland designed to attract people who worked in Baltimore but were looking for homes in areas away from the busy city. Similarly, Edgewood was where early, smaller scale commuter communities first took root in Harford County.

Edgewood and Joppa-Joppatowne have a lot going for them. Both are quick hops into Baltimore for folks commuting these days to Hopkins or some other major employer, and back in the day for people who worked at Bethlehem Steel and the nearby Sparrows Point Shipyard.

There was another attraction, one that remains: the desire to live in a place that seems like it could be a vacation destination. The reality is, prior to building the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the 1950s, the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay was a vacation destination from Perryman and Havre de Grace in the north to Chesapeake Beach, Solomon's Island and Point Lookout in the south. Heck, there's even a Miami Beach on the Chesapeake, just south of Edgewood nestled in Bowley's Quarters.

Many of the small homes in the Flying Point area of Edgewood have the look of what they once were – summer cottages.

While the seclusion that once was an attraction for people moving to Edgewood and Joppatowne may have given way to a brand of suburban crowding that seems relatively ordinary in modern America, the charm of the waterfront being in close proximity remains, as do many other amenities.

In short, Joppatowne and Edgewood are fine places to live, have been fine places to live and will be for a long time to come. That's a big part of the why the area is so densely populated.

The area isn't without its problems. A small corner of Edgewood in a relatively tight orbit around a small community pond known as Lake Serene has been plagued with problems for decades. It is an area dominated by low income and government subsidized housing, and such areas across the country are often where criminal activity festers.

Sometimes, the local law enforcement approach has been to avoid the problem and focus resources on other areas. That typically hasn't worked. The approach that's been in place lately has been one of having law enforcement work with community leaders to deal with the problem. In recent years, an area the size of maybe two New York City blocks that had been the scene of a disturbing number of homicides has been a good deal less violent.

There's still crime, including violent crime. And there have been shootings and killings in recent weeks. It's worth noting the most violent few days in Edgewood occurred around the same time as a dramatic spike in homicides in Baltimore. It may have been a simple coincidence relating to a change in the weather, but the easy commute between Baltimore and Edgewood is just as easy for people on the wrong side of the law.

This isn't to say that all the people in the communities near Lake Serene in Edgewood are violent criminals. Most aren't. They're just folks trying to get by like everyone else. If only a small percentage of a community is involved in criminal violence, though, it will have a big effect, and, unfortunately for people of modest means, low income communities are often the easiest places for people of bad intent to find shelter.

The good people in the communities are the ones who make it possible for police to keep a lid on the problem, but the social reality is the problem isn't likely to be rooted out entirely.

It has been shown in Harford County that even more dramatic action than community partnerships with police can result in a decrease in criminal activity. In Havre de Grace, for a generation the former Concord Fields War Housing Project, often referred to by people from the neighborhood simply as The Project, was a center of criminal activity. It was also the place many honest families of modest means called home. Indeed, there are plenty of community leaders in Havre de Grace and surrounding areas who have fond memories of growing up in The Project.

It's been about 10 years since The Project, or at least the rentals that were the heart of it, was vacated and razed. Since then, criminal activity in Havre de Grace has noticeably diminished, and it's not a coincidence.

Tearing down neighborhoods where crime is a problem, though, generally isn't practical. The criminal element that had roosted in The Project may have left Havre de Grace, but it didn't go far. Importantly, Havre de Grace also lost a community where people of modest means could live in relative peace.

In dealing with problems facing Edgewood that have erupted in recent weeks, it's important to keep in mind that it's possible to keep them in check, but communities with a large contingent of low income and subsidized housing, such as Edgewood, have long been catchments for some of the worst society has to offer.

It's also important to keep in mind that the problem, to date, has been one that's manageable because the area affected is a relatively small portion of Edgewood, and a relatively small contingent of people in that area are causing most of the problems.

If the other folks in the community and the police keep in contact with each other, the problem can be managed, even if it never goes away completely.