Newtowne neighborhoods meet with police, officials on crime

Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson speaks Tuesday night to residents from neighborhoods along Newtowne Drive about crime in the area.

Residents of four Annapolis neighborhoods off Newtowne Drive gathered to take a bite out of crime Tuesday night, airing grievances and taking first steps toward a coordinated effort to solve issues plaguing the area.

"This is a first step, not the last," said Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson, who hosted the meeting along with police Chief Michael Pristoop.


About 40 residents of public housing at Newtowne 20, and subsidized housing at privately owned Woodside Gardens, Homes on the Glen, and Riders Glen joined city housing and police officials, plus management of the privately owned and operated communities in one room to listen to each other.

Police officials, led by Pristoop, reiterated what they have said before — that they need the community's help to stem crime.


"We need to know what you know," Pristoop said.

Police encouraged residents to use various means to inform police about nefarious activity, whether it be using Metro Crime Stoppers, information boxes about to be installed in every public housing community, or setting up private meetings with police officers assigned to their neighborhoods.

Many resident were wary, worried about repercussions from acting as crime tipsters.

But officers took time to explain that Metro Crime Stoppers, for instance, is completely anonymous.

"We never know your name or where you live," Lt. Tim Lowe explained. "When you call, you are assigned a number and all we get is the information in your tip."

Police said another means of improving information, and deterring some crime, is cameras.

Some of those communities already have cameras, but the systems need upgrading and improvements to cover blind spots in known high-crime locations, police said.

The first section of the city to get fresh camera equipment is Eastport, where several recent shootings have stirred safety concerns.


Next up will be Newtowne. Residents were told Brooke and Betsy courts, in the back end of Newtowne 20, would soon get cameras.

Woodside Gardens and the Glens communities have already started some upgrades, but more are in the offing.

"What we are working on is a coordinated system so that housing authority cameras, private community cameras, all can be monitored together," Pristoop said.

"Cameras are not a panacea, but they can play a role," he said. "Where we cannot be, they can be our eyes."

But even potential evidence captured on cameras can be greatly bolstered by information from the community, police said.

There were general concerns expressed about unwanted characters in the neighborhood.


The new security chief for the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, Michael Brown, promised swift action. One plan is to issue parking permits for residents, who will also get guest passes for visitors.

"And after midnight, if there is a car without a pass, I am going to tow it," Brown said.

He also said he is already in the process of analyzing leases to determine if there are people living in public housing units who are not on the lease. He said, "So, if you get a letter from me, it's already too late."

Some residents at the meeting shared gripes about disrespectful kids, and hints of cross-neighborhood disagreements along what Finlayson called "the drive" surfaced. There has been one homicide this year in the Newtowne Drive area and several other reports of gunfire.

Another resident stood to sum it up. "It is up to us," she said. "If it's going to change, it starts here."