While crime in the east Columbia village of Long Reach has dropped since the neighborhood was declared a HotSpot area, residents say they still feel threatened by loitering drug dealers with unleashed pit bulls.
Last night, about 25 residents crowded into a tiny apartment on Tamar Drive that serves as the Bentana Community Center to voice their concerns.
At the end of the hourlong meeting, several people signed up to form a committee to look into ways to address the problems.
"My patio is right on Tamar Drive, and I see a lot of those dogs, and a lot of the time they are not even on leashes," said Glenn Brooks, who lives in a first-floor apartment in the Bentana Woods complex.
Two years ago, Long Reach village was named a HotSpot area, making it eligible for $122,000 a year in state and federal grants for three years.
Long Reach was one of 35 areas designated a HotSpot as part of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's initiative to give troubled neighborhoods money to pay for crime prevention programs.
Before the HotSpot program, police began "zero tolerance" enforcement in those communities, arresting people who they saw committing even the most minor crimes.
The zero-tolerance policy was supported by the community and, according to police and residents, drove away dozens of drug dealers who had been loitering along Tamar Drive.
Pfc. Lisa Myers, who is assigned by Howard County police to the Long Reach HotSpot office, encouraged residents to become active and to call police when they witness a crime or see loiterers.
Calls to police urged
"A lot of people are under the false impression that they should not call police unless it is a major emergency and someone is bleeding to death," Myers said. "That's not true. You should call us so that, if nothing else, we can go out there and identify those people. We call those field integration reports."
Some residents said they feared retribution from drug dealers.
While Myers acknowledged that was a concern, she said residents should tell dispatchers of their fears so officers would not come to their homes, thus identifying them to lawbreakers.
"If we are going to unite together on this, there is going to be some repercussions," Brooks said. "But we have to have the courage to come forward and point our finger at someone we saw doing something wrong. The drug dealers, they bank on our fear."
The next community meeting is scheduled Nov. 22.
Information on time and place: 410-313-7455.