Crime Wave or Just a Ripple?


Residents of crime-plagued neighborhoods around the Baltimore metropolitan region would welcome the "crime wave" that some New Windsor residents believe has swept over this Carroll town.

Teen-agers riding bikes on sidewalks, using disrespectful language and hanging around may be annoying to some of the older town residents, but their activities are not criminal. Forming a town police force, as a minority of residents advocate, will not do anything to improve youthful behavior. A policeman cannot arrest a teen-ager for talking back to adults, for standing on a street corner or riding a bike on the wrong side of the street.

To combat the youthful vandalism and mischief that was getting out of control, the town residents took two actions last year that have been extremely effective in curbing these problems. The council created an 11 p.m. curfew for youths under the age of 18, and the town established a neighborhood watch program. Since the citizen patrols began, the streets are much quieter and there are fewer kids roaming New Windsor at night.

If town residents think that a police officer can prevent crime from occurring, they are in for a rude surprise. While police ensure public safety and create a sense of order, they cannot prevent crime.

No matter how good a police officer is, he or she can't be everywhere at once. Criminals are opportunistic. If they are intent on stealing or vandalizing, they will find the time and the place. At best, police can deter crime and deny criminals opportunities. Unless New Windsor wants a policeman on every block, there is no way a police force can stop all crime. As for the real crime in New Windsor, the state police resident trooper seems to be able to apprehend people who have engaged in criminal acts.

Mayor Jack Gullo Jr. was on the mark when he said New Windsor suffers from a "community" rather than a "crime" problem. Underlying many of these complaints is prejudice, particularly against the town's poorer residents who rent apartments along Church Street near the railroad tracks.

Establishing a police force will not rid New Windsor of low-income families. Instead of treating these residents as outcasts and criminals, town residents should treat these people as neighbors. By showing a little concern and tolerance, New Windsor's "crime" wave in all likelihood will recede.

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