North Odenton merchants, Seven Oaks residents and police say they are working together to prevent crime and improve the image of the Route 175 business strip, which is dotted with vacant, neglected lots.
Two months after business and community leaders asked police for increased patrols to help prevent break-ins, robberies and loitering, people who live and work in the area are starting to notice a change.
"The bottom line here is, the initial steps we've taken, we're very satisfied with," said Thomas C. Funk, co-owner of Cho-Son Oak restaurant in the 1500 block of Annapolis Road. "They are listening to us," he said of police.
The community was outraged by the slaying Aug. 31 of Thomas Sung Hall, owner of Tom's Liquors and Korean Restaurant. He was shot to death in his store in the 1500 block of Annapolis Road by a gunman who also wounded Hall's wife and two people in a van outside the store.
On Friday, U.S. marshals in Hitchcock, Texas, arrested Dean Lamont Prue Jr., 26, of the 8300 block of Timberlake Court, Severn, on charges of murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting.
A small group of residents and business owners met with police and county officials, including County Executive John G. Gary, in October to air their concerns.
Since the meeting, police have taken several steps to enhance their presence by:
Establishing a task force, including undercover officers and drug-sniffing dogs, to conduct mini-raids in the corridor to arrest people for drug violations and other charges.
Assigning two officers instead of one to North Odenton to patrol shopping areas during the holiday season.
Asking volunteer reserve officers from the Western District station to drive through the Seven Oaks community in marked cars looking for criminal activity.
Encouraging officers who normally patrol the area to stop and talk to business owners during periods that the officers' shifts overlap.
"There is beginning to be a coalescing of the community, and that's a very positive thing because it will lead to positive action," said Western District Capt. Timothy Bowman.
But the community is not leaving all the crime prevention to the police. "We need to help them be the eyes and ears," Funk said. "We're being made aware of things we can do."
For example, Funk said, business owners now know they don't have to wait until loiterers commit a crime before they call police.
And homeowners need to take simple steps to secure their property, such as closing their garage doors, said Scott M. Neil, Seven Oaks Community Association board member.
"We have to get an effort going here to get them to quit putting the bait out for people," Neil said.
The Route 175 merchants are talking about joining Business Watch, a county police program that encourages businesses to call each other when they see suspicious activity in the area. They also will try to spruce up their properties to eliminate the old "Boomtown" image of tattoo parlors, bars and pool halls.
"We want to clean up our own area and then maintain a higher standard than what was considered normal, say, five years ago," Funk said.
Funk and Neil believe that much of the loitering on vacant lots and crime in the residential area and in the business corridor is caused by a few troublemakers who live in older, less-affluent neighborhoods that border Seven Oaks.
But police records don't bear that out, Bowman said. The bars and other businesses on Annapolis Road attract clients from as far away as Washington.
"There's no exclusivity there," Bowman said.
A proposal by residents to install an 8-foot chain-link fence along a nearly half-mile border between Seven Oaks and neighboring communities has been scaled back, Neil said.
Residents are now considering a combination of fence and landscaping along the stretch, and many are fencing their own properties.
"We'll see how things progress," Neil said.
Pub Date: 12/10/96