SOME neighborhoods have a reputation for crime that is worse than they deserve. That has been the predicament of Harper's Choice village in Columbia for too long.
Efforts are being made not only to reduce criminal activity but also to improve the area's appearance and vitality. Still, the community must fight the perception -- even among many of its residents -- that it is an unsafe place to live.
That issue was discussed last week during a two-day public forum on the remaining crime problems in Harper's Choice. The event was a collaboration of the Howard County Police Department and the Community Policing Consortium, a national organization of police foundations and other law enforcement groups.
The sponsors hope they gleaned enough ideas from the 10 hours of discussion about Harper's Choice to develop anti-crime strategies that might be used in other suburban communities.
Harper's Choice is often described in terms that would suggest a much more troubled neighborhood. But the generous sprinkling of apartment complexes within the Columbia village doesn't make it a poster child for urban anxieties. Harper's Choice does not resemble the poverty-stricken inner-city addresses where larceny and mayhem rule. Within walking distance, one can find both modest abodes and expensive houses. There may be occasional graffiti, but no blight.
Still, crime cannot be taken lightly in Harper's Choice. The village experienced increases in assaults, burglaries and thefts in 1997 compared with 1996, although crime was down for the first quarter of this year. The number of crimes -- fewer than 200 a year in each category -- does not suggest Dodge City, however.
The recent $3.5 million renovation of the village center has made Harper's Choice more attractive and safe. Citizens working with police to rid the neighborhood of loiterers and litterers will likely see the village's undeserved reputation diminish along with those nuisances.
Pub Date: 6/17/98