Linthicum is taking the law into its own hands.
The community doesn't really have a crime problem, said Bruce Fink, president of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association. But to make sure it stays that way, residents have formed their own almost-nightly safety patrol.
About 30 to 40 volunteers have formed the Linthicum Security Patrol, which began walking the streets June 1.
So far, the watchdogs have deterred a suspicious dump truck from unloading a pile of junk at North County High School and reported a few suspicious vehicles to police -- nothing terribly serious, Fink said.
But then, the volunteers weren't expecting -- or hoping -- to find real-life crime dramas on their forays along Maple Avenue and Camp Meade Road. The idea is to deter any real troublemakers, he said.
"Light rail is going to start soon," Fink said. "We want to be ready."
Similar to volunteer patrollers who just started in Crofton, Linthicum's volunteers work in conjunction with the Northern District county police.
Pairs of volunteers drive around Linthicum in cars marked with magnetic signs, covering the area south of the Beltway. If they spot something suspicious, they radio the information back to a base station, staffed by another volunteer in his or her home. That person, in turn, relays the information to police.
The patrollers are not allowed to play hero, Fink said. Police will handle all law enforcement. Volunteers are not allowed to get out of their cars. And all written information they collect, such as license tag numbers, is turned over to police.
The improvement association hopes to recruit 60 to 70 volunteers, enough to patrol the neighborhood seven nights a week. This month, the volunteers will be able to cover 20 days.
One of the culprits the patrollers would love to catch is the person responsible for spraying graffiti on the water tower and the Linthicum-Shipley Shopping Center during the past year. A year ago, the association put up a $100 reward for information leading to the arrest of a graffiti vandal, but the money is still sitting in the treasury, Fink said.
Fortunately, there hasn't been much new graffiti lately, he said, and what there has been "is just crazy graphics and letters" -- nothing obscene.
"It's not like New York City or anything," Fink said. "But we don't like it. It looks trashy."
Late one night several months ago, somebody in Linthicum Park reported hearing a shaking spray-paint can, Fink said. The neighbor ran out and took a license plate number, but couldn't collect the reward because he never actually saw someone spraying graffiti.
Fink said he subsequently spotted the license plate and, on impulse, followed the suspicious car himself, to no avail.