Responding to concerns about increasing crime in southern Harford County, the sheriff's office plans to open an Edgewood station, the first outside the Bel Air headquarters.
The station is to open in March at the site of a vacant 7-Eleven store on Gateway Drive, and would be home to the county's proposed domestic violence unit.
Sheriff Joseph Meadows said the station is needed to combat crime, including drug-related violence, in communities along the U.S. 40 corridor.
"These areas have more than their fair share of problems," he told the county council at its Tuesday meeting. "It's time to give the southern part of the county a permanent commitment."
That section, which stretches from Joppatowne at the Baltimore County line to Havre de Grace on the Susquehanna River, accounted for 63 percent of the 103,000 calls for assistance in the first 10 months of the year. Among U.S. 40 communities, Edgewood and Joppa had 15,934 calls with the Abingdon, Perryman and Belcamp area second.
The council approved the Southern District Substation by a 6-1 vote. Councilman Barry Glassman, who represents the northern part of the county, cast the dissenting vote.
Residents along the U.S. 40 corridor, who are worried about drug dealing and other crime, have endorsed the project, for which the council appropriated $470,000.
"I do not want to be run away from my home because of crime," Anita Sills-Jones, president of the Willoughby Beach community in Edgewood, told council members.
And County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann said the station would show that Harford County is tough on crime: "It's time to change business as usual. This sends a message that we mean business when it comes to getting drug-dealing off our streets."
"Carloads" of people travel to U.S. 40 neighborhoods, particularly Edgewood, to buy and sell drugs, the sheriff said.
The new station will drastically cut response time. It now takes deputies about 20 minutes to drive from the Bel Air headquarters to Edgewood and other communities in southern Harford.
The sheriff's office is confident it will receive a federal grant to start the domestic violence unit, Sheriff Meadows told the council.
Edgewood and Joppatowne account for nearly 50 percent of all domestic violence reports in the county, according to police. This year, there were 756 reports of domestic violence in those communities through October -- out of a total of 1,608. The second-largest number of reports was 193 and came from the area of Abingdon, Perryman and Belcamp.
About 30 employees of the sheriff's office will be reassigned to the 2,520-square-foot station in Edgewood, Sheriff Meadows said. The one-story building will include space for processing prisoners, administering Breathalyzer tests and interviewing suspects.