The fact that burglars, thieves and vandals prowl Fort Meade communities probably comes as a surprise to people who assume a military installation is immune from the crime that affects civilian neighborhoods.
But Mary Haynes knows better. For more than a year, she has worked to prevent crime from gaining a stronghold in MacArthur Manor, an on-post housing area for about 1,000 soldiers and their families.
"We have the same problems as any other place," said Mrs. Haynes, who was in Annapolis yesterday to receive a certificate at the 13th annual Governor's Crime Prevention Awards luncheon.
"Some criminals see the sign out front that says this is a federal institution and go someplace else," she said. "We get the dumb criminals."
Lt. Col. Bill Sondervan, the base provost marshal, or police chief, nominated her for the award in recognition of her tireless work in starting a block watch program. She was one of four Anne Arundel County citizens to win awards.
The others are Joe Hogue, Chuck Mattice and Elwood Myers, who together have volunteered nearly 12,000 hours helping the Anne Arundel County Police Department at crime prevention seminars, dressing as the crime dog, McGruff, and fingerprinting children.
"For so long, we hear about what's gone wrong in our communities," said Tara Ball, a Howard County police officer who worked on the committee that selected the winners. "It's refreshing that there are things going on that have a positive impact."
Law enforcement agencies and 115 citizens, police officers, community groups and programs received awards in five categories and each were publicly recognized in front of hundreds of police officials at the luncheon yesterday.
Mrs. Haynes moved to Fort Meade last year when her husband was transferred there. Within a month, she earned the nickname, "Mama Haynes," because she was adamant about getting volunteers.
"I saw that there was a crime problem," she said. "Not only that, but people wouldn't talk to each other. They had all these neighborhood watch signs up, but no program."
McArthur Manor is one of several housing areas on the post accommodating more than 9,500 military personnel and their dependants.
After spending many afternoons knocking on doors and bothering residents who were doing yard work, she got a group of people to take time out each evening and walk the neighborhood to look for suspicious activity.
Major crime isn't too much of a problem, she said. The most common problems are vandalism and break-ins.
Mrs. Haynes said criminals recognize that Fort Meade is a transient community.
"Every day, we have at least five moving vans backed up to homes," she said. "It is not unusual for people to be moving stuff out of homes all the time."
Colonel Sondervan said he nominated Mrs. Haynes because of her success in energizing the community. "She went out and knocked on doors and got it up and running."
He credits the program with stopping many crimes, including one recently when a block watch team member saw a man climbing a ladder to the second-story window of a home in the neighborhood.
Military police discovered later it was a boy sneaking into his teen-age girlfriend's bedroom.
They found him hiding in her closet.
"It's kind of unusual," Colonel Sondervan said. "It's kind of comical. But the sergeant was happy the neighborhood watch people found it . . . although it's a military base, what you find at Fort Meade is what you find at other similar-sized cities."
In addition to the civilians, the Anne Arundel County Police Department was one of 22 police agencies in the state recognized for having a comprehensive law enforcement crime prevention program.
County Officer Guy Della was one of 30 officers to get the Governor's Crime Prevention Achievers' Award for performing at least 50 residential or commercial security surveys.