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Light rail policing seems to cut crime But shoplifters still annoy merchants at Cromwell Fields


A year after Anne Arundel County police joined forces with the Mass Transit Administration to fight crime on the southern end of the light rail line, the problem "is almost completely gone," authorities say.

From May 1994 through September 1994, when large numbers of uniformed and plainclothes county officers patrolled Anne Arundel's section of the line, police made 186 arrests -- slightly more than 37 a month.

Last month, they made only two, said Cpl. Michael E. Belcher, who coordinates the county's efforts with MTA.

Residents of communities along the line, who once demanded that MTA close the Linthicum Heights station, said they remained skeptical, but they acknowledged that police efforts have helped.

"The crime seems to have subsided," said Gerald P. Starr, president of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association. "It's not as active as it was a year and a half ago. We're real pleased about that."

William L. Blotzer, president of the North Linthicum Improvement Association, said the rate of petty thefts that angered his neighbors has decreased.

"It seems to have improved," he said.

"It was heading in the wrong direction for a while. But there seems like there's been a leveling off in crime."

But merchants at Cromwell Fields Shopping Center, across Dorsey Road from the last stop on the line, say problems with shoplifters remain.

"We still have problems," said Pat L. Parris, manager of Fashion Bug. She said store employees once placed sensor tags, which activate alarms if they are taken out of the store, only on those items costing more than $35.

Now, they place the tags on everything.

But shoplifters "hide in the dressing room and clip" the tags off the clothing, she said.

Marianne T. Alexander, an assistant manager at Fashion Bug, said she appreciates the officers patrolling the station across the street, but "they need to come over here, too."

Ever since light rail came to Anne Arundel in April 1993, residents along the line have complained of increases in thefts and burglaries, and merchants have complained about shoplifters.

A year after light rail's arrival, county police at the Northern District station began their light rail enforcement initiative, beefing up patrols at the stations in Glen Burnie, Ferndale and Linthicum.

In September 1994, the MTA began paying county officers overtime to patrol the line.

Meanwhile, the administration is hiring more transit officers to provide security.

James F. Buckley, deputy MTA administrator, said the administration recently hired 33 officers who are expected to graduate from the police academy in the spring and begin patrolling the light rail line.

County Councilman George F. Bachman, who represents the communities along the line, said Anne Arundel will keep four of its own officers on the line.

But even though the crime problem has been curbed, he said, "there are some people up here who will never be for light rail unless light rail shuts down in its entirety, and that will never happen."

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