Arrest made in sexual assault

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Columbia man was arrested yesterday and charged with sexual offenses and second-degree assault of a 5-year-old girl near a pond this week, Howard County police reported last night.

Police said Miguel Ramos, 34, of the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road in Oakland Mills was charged on three sex offense counts and one count of assault and was awaiting an appearance before a court commissioner.

Police said the girl was attacked in a secluded area near Jackson Pond in Long Reach village about 2 p.m. Sunday after a man distracted her 11-year-old brother by telling him to go fishing.

During the incident, the girl knocked the attacker's cellular telephone into the pond, police said. A Howard County Department Fire and Rescue Services dive team recovered the phone yesterday, and police used it to trace Ramos to his residence, they said.

The arrest was a relief to the community.

"That's great news," said Karen Hitcho, vice chairwoman of the Long Reach Village Board. "Anytime a little kid is hurt like that, it's a shock to the community."

Meanwhile. county police were reassuring another Columbia village, Oakland Mills, about crime concerns in the wake of Howard's most recent homicide, a shooting there Saturday - promising to open a satellite office in the community.

The promise came last night from Chief Wayne Livesay at a community forum at Oakland Mills Village Center. He also said the police would hold monthly community forums so residents can voice concerns, and that a police officer would be assigned as a community liaison based at the satellite office.

Three homicides have occurred in Oakland Mills since September and seven since 1998. The most recent victim, Terrence Armstead, 34, was found fatally shot in front of his apartment building in the 9600 block of Basket Ring Road early Saturday. The crime is unsolved, and police are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

County police have three other satellite offices - in Harper's Choice, Long Reach and North Laurel. While police have increased car and bicycle patrols near Oakland Mills recently, village leaders and residents had been clamoring for a permanent police presence for years.

"This is the best news we've had in a long time," said Columbia Councilwoman Barbara Russell, one of about 50 people who attended the meeting. "It's a fantastic commitment on the part of the police."

But Livesay said he was unsure where the space and funds for the office would come from. All of the small office spaces in the village center are occupied, and Livesay said he did not expect to receive more funding from the state.

Livesay said he plans to find the money from other sources and would find an appropriate space near the village center.

The chief assured residents that Oakland Mills is not a hotbed of random, violent crime. Most of the homicides since 1998 were domestic disputes, he said. "These were people who knew each other."

But Livesay and others said many people are concerned that Oakland Mills has a reputation of growing crime problems, in part because of the homicides.

"People are scared when they hear about killings," said County Councilman David A. Rakes, a Democrat who represents the area.

Rakes said he would work to find money for a satellite office in the county budget if necessary, but added that residents also need to involve themselves in the community to watch for problems. "I don't think an [office] is going to solve it alone. There are social problems that have to be dealt with," he said.

Some residents were pessimistic that a police office would have any effect. "Criminals know how to get around that type of stuff," said Alfreda Hughes.

But Livesay and other leaders said they believed the office and regular meetings will help. "I suspect we can do a lot of positive things," Livesay said.

Anyone with information about the homicide was urged to call the police at 410-313-3200 or 410-313-3700.

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