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Set fire damages house minor thefts reported


Arson caused an estimated $500 damage to a house under construction in New Windsor early yesterday, and police reported several minor thefts from cars there.

Authorities said the fire and thefts appeared to be another spate of random vandalism in the town, where vandals spray-painted buildings and signs, tore up plants and ripped lights off the mayor's office June 11.

Maryland Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Bob Thomas said the fire, which was set before sunrise, damaged the second floor of a home being built on Atley Ridge.

He said the fire was quickly extinguished after a passer-by saw smoke rising from the home.

Mr. Thomas said a 12-year-old boy is suspected of the arson, but no charges have been filed pending further investigation.

Police said the thefts were from four cars parked on Hallowell Lane and one on Main Street during early morning.

"Residents had left the cars unlocked and made it very easy for them [thieves]," said Deputy Larry Reid of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

State police are still investigating June 11 vandalism that caused several thousand dollars in damage to homes and vehicles. They have not established a connection between the vandalism and the break-ins yesterday, they said.

A cellular phone was the most valuable item stolen from the five vehicles yesterday, police said. Several victims also reported compact discs and audiotapes stolen from their cars between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.

Police took fingerprints from the vehicles, but have no leads in the latest incidents.

"We don't have much evidence," Deputy Reid said.

Town officials and several residents blame a few juveniles for most of the recent crime in the county's smallest town.

"Here is a town that doesn't lock its doors or its cars, and that has never had a problem," said Tony Ferace, a New Windsor businessman. "Now building contractors are afraid to leave their equipment in town."

Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said unsupervised juveniles are causing the problems.

"What we have going on is the same kids without proper parenting," the mayor said. "The police are doing a 100 percent job, tracking down leads and making charges. The town and the police have taken this as far as they can."

After the June 11 vandalism, a volunteer Neighborhood Watch committee stepped up its efforts by putting about 30 volunteers on patrol on the town's streets at night. They are trying to enforce the curfew for juveniles, which is 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Town Councilman Ronnie Blacksten, liaison to the committee, said the increased patrols are making a difference, but taking a toll on the volunteers.

"We are all trying to work hard and at late hours," he said. "Most of us have to get up early and go to work in the morning."

The committee has reported several incidents to state police and the members are pleased with the quick action officers have taken, Mr. Blacksten said. Like the mayor, Mr. Blacksten praised police efforts.

"The police are doing their job, but the same juveniles are arrested and then they're back on the street the next day," he said. "Nothing happens [to them] and they keep destroying property. We have even talked to their parents and they take no responsibility."

New Windsor shares one resident state trooper with neighboring Union Bridge. Town officials have said they cannot afford full-time protection without a significant increase in the tax rate. "We need police more than 20 hours a week, but how do we pay for it?" asked Councilwoman Rebecca Harman.

Mayor Gullo said the town's problem may not be related to the number of hours an officer is in town.

"This vandalism isn't happening in Union Bridge," he said. "They have the same police coverage as we do."

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