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Community crime forums get under way Saturday BALTIMORE COUNTY


Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden's brand of do-it-yourself crime prevention gets its first airing Saturday at an invitation-only crime forum in Randallstown.

The two-hour Community Crime Forum is part of an effort by Mr. Hayden to counteract public perception that crime has spiraled out of control as budget cuts have reduced the Police Department's complement of uniformed officers.

Saturday's session, the first of eight that will be held in the county this year, is part of Mr. Hayden's program to get communities involved in guaranteeing the safety of their own streets and homes.

"The best we're doing anywhere in the country is stemming the tide [of crime]," Mr. Hayden said. "Somewhere, there's got to be ideas about turning it around."

Saturday's session will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Liberty Family Resource Center on Liberty Road.

Several community leaders, including Steve Goldbloom, president of a west Randallstown group known as RENEW, have said the forums should be helpful. Mr. Goldbloom is interested in an expanded, communitywide citizens' patrol, similar to a patrol in Northwest Baltimore.

However, some community leaders remain skeptical. One who did not want to be identified dismissed the meetings as political window dressing and said Mr. Hayden's true purpose is to repair the political damage caused by layoffs and library closings.

Mr. Hayden says he is committed to his new approach. He also wants to create a group called Students Aiding Friends Everywhere (SAFE), in which students volunteer to help make their communities safer. A countywide conference on crime prevention is scheduled for April 3 at Towson State University.

This week, Mr. Hayden said the county can help neighborhood groups by sponsoring community forums, sharing expertise, providing encouragement and by awarding small grants of $500 to $1,000.

"I want [citizens] to commit to do things," Mr. Hayden said.

Albert Craemer, a Randallstown businessman, said he and other business owners in a group he formed and heads -- the Baltimore County Crime Task Force -- want county officials to put more beat officers on foot in commercial areas.

"We're dealing with professional criminals," he said. "We need professionals."

The next session is scheduled for March 20 at the Hereford library. Other sessions will be held at county libraries in White Marsh, North Point, Catonsville, Cockeysville and Rosedale.

Mr. Hayden said several of the Saturday meetings were scheduled in tandem with his monthly Face-to-Face sessions with constituents. The April 18 meeting in Pikesville was scheduled on a Sunday to avoid the Jewish Sabbath.

At each session, local police commanders and crime analysts will talk about current local crime trends. Harold Long, a Hayden staff member, will stay in touch with community leaders.

Anthony Alston, president of the Liberty Manor Community Association, west of Liberty Road on Old Court Road, said his neighborhood's community patrols have eliminated the area's burglary problem.

"We have the lowest crime rate," Mr. Alston said. "We have a 24-hour patrol."

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