The Harford County Sheriff's Office will launch a summer crime-fighting initiative and community leaders are planning a "healing night and vigil" for Edgewood after a spate of violence around the Grempler Way area that culminated in the murder of a man on Saturday night.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests have been made in connection with the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Quinton Stokes in the 1800 block of Grempler Way shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday.
Mr. Stokes' murder followed two weeks in which several incidents of gun violence were reported in the Edgewater Village community, a longtime crime hotspot in Harford County.
Sheriff Jesse Bane said Tuesday afternoon he has not seen police reports from the latest crimes and can't say what is causing the escalation of violence in the community.
He added, however, that he wants to get out in front of the problem before the community gets fearful to a point where it won't be willing to work with police.
Because of the "anti-snitching mind set" and people being afraid to come forward, Bane explained, "I wouldn't ask the community to work with us if we couldn't provide a degree of safety for them."
He said he would work on ways to make people feel safe to anonymously talk to the police and to know that law enforcement will keep them safe.
"We have had a number of incidents there within a very short period of time, and we were doing quite a bit to make sure nothing more would happen," the sheriff added. "Now that we have got a homicide, we just have to kick it up a notch."
Around 10:16 p.m. Saturday, Harford County Sheriff's deputies responded to multiple calls of shots fired with at least one person injured. When they arrived, deputies found Mr. Stokes, whose last known address was in the 1300 block of Gold Meadow Way, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, according an earlier news release from the Sheriff's Office.
Emergency medical personnel from the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company treated Mr. Stokes at the scene before he was flown by Maryland State Police Medevac to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He died from his injuries shortly before midnight, according to the release.
Witnesses reported seeing a black man wearing tan shorts running from the area.
On June 10, a 15-year-old boy was grazed in the stomach by a bullet; another 15-year-old boy is charged in the case with attempted murder and first-degree assault.
Deputies responded to the same area June 14 for reports of shots fired near Brookside Drive and Grempler Way.
Earlier Tuesday, Bane announced in a news release that he is creating a "strategic, summer initiative" to try to address the violence, starting with a community meeting planned for July 3 at 7 p.m. at the Edgewood Recreation Center.
Bane said in the release the summer initiative will "bring every resource the [Harford County Sheriff's Office] has to offer to the Edgewood communities."
"The streets of Edgewood do not belong to the criminal element. Every member of the Harford County Sheriff's Office is highly resolved to ensure that does not happen and the good people of Edgewood can continue to live in their communities without fear," Bane said in the statement, adding his deputies have been working "tirelessly, around the clock, to respond to the violence that has recently erupted."
"As you know, our detectives have been actively investigating the series of shootings for the past several weeks," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristie Kahler wrote in an e-mail Monday.
"At the same time we have been increasing patrol and visibility in the neighborhood and using all traditional means to bring closure to these cases," Kahler added.
The group M.O.M.S. (Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters of Maryland), together with the Edgewood Community Council, will hold an End of Violence Community Healing Night/Vigil at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
The event, which was already planned before Saturday's fatal shooting, will take place at the Edgewater Village basketball court on Brookside Drive, behind Save-a-lot supermarket on Route 40.
"With the recent spike in violence in the Edgewood area, we were approached to try and do something in the community," organizer Mildred Samy wrote in an e-mail to The Aegis.
Samy, whose son was killed in Edgewood violence six years ago, said Tuesday she went out again to talk with young people, sensing that some tension had returned to the Edgewater Village neighborhood.
"I felt like I was reliving that time again and I felt it was time to go back to the community and talk to them and try to stop some of this violence," Samy said. "We can do something, but we need to work together to get this under control."
Samy suspects the new violence is from gangs fighting over territory, and she said the new teenagers out there are not "the crew that I helped raise."
"This new breed that's out there kind of scares me, because they just don't care. They don't have any sense of human life," Samy said.
She went out to the neighborhood basketball court while putting up signs for her vigil.
"There were a lot of people on the basketball court and playing basketball, and I ventured down there and said, 'Can I talk to you guys for a minute?'" she said. "I told them, 'This stuff has to stop. A bullet has no name on it, so anybody can get hurt and we need to learn how to live together, and, really, what you are doing is you are going to make us extinct.'"
"They responded very well and they said, 'Yeah, you are right' and 'We hear you,'" she said, explaining: "I talk to them like I was one of them. I don't preach. They were listening to me and said they were going to try to come to this meeting."
Samy, who became known as the "lady with the horn" for driving around the area with a bullhorn, said the community needs to get the latest spate of violence "straightened out."
Samy said her daughter still lives near Grempler Way and she has watched her grandchildren be afraid to go outside and be "held hostage" in the house.
"This is a community. This is not a city. There's kids running around, it's summertime. The kids should be able to enjoy their summer. They don't need to be running around dodging bullets," she said.
Kahler said the Sheriff's Office is not involved with organizing the vigil Friday.
"While we will be in the area patrolling, we do not have a specific role in the vigil," she said.