Rise in violence spurs call to action in Eastport


Concerned about public safety, some Eastport residents are demanding more police presence on neighborhood streets after several recent vicious attacks on pedestrians.

"I don't feel so safe anymore. I have a different feel for my neighborhood, and I don't like it," said Richard J. Sharoff of Boucher Avenue.

But Annapolis law enforcement officials insist that increased patrols would do little to change the situation.

"We feel our manpower is adequate," said Officer Hal Dalton, a city police spokesman. "In fact, we have more [officers] now than we have in several years."

Dalton said the force of nearly 125 does a good job patrolling Eastport and the other areas of Annapolis.

Increasing police presence in the city, he added, would be the "least effective" strategy for stopping such attacks.

"Criminals are dumb, but they're not that dumb," Dalton said. "Not many of them will do something right in front of a police officer."

Though Dalton and other department officials say that putting an officer on every corner is not a solution, some panicked Eastport residents argue that Annapolis law enforcement needs to do more to stop violent street crime.

Sharoff, who organized the safety meeting, said he called the forum earlier this month in reaction to the latest assault in Eastport.

The victim, Charlie White, 15, was robbed of his cell phone and one dollar before being beaten over the head with a hammer.

The Jan. 17 daytime assault took place half a block from the teen's Boucher Avenue home and left him with an injury requiring more than 40 stitches.

A suspect in the case, Terry Jerome Bradley, 30, of Pleasant Street was arrested Jan. 21 and charged with possessing White's stolen phone. Police have said they are unable to press charges in the assault because there are no known eyewitnesses.

Days before the attack on White, a 36-year-old Arnold man was robbed and beaten while walking near the corner of Severn Avenue and Sixth Street.

The victim was knocked unconscious and suffered broken facial bones; Dalton said detectives have identified suspects but have made no arrests.

Eastport residents fear that the recent crimes threaten to hurt the reputation of the neighborhood - a place known for its independent spirit and laid-back atmosphere.

Brooke Perkins, appointed "premier" of the Maritime Republic of Eastport, a nonprofit group that organizes charity functions in the neighborhood, says he is concerned that crime will tarnish what he called a "walk-around" community.

"We've had problems on and off for years, but it's usually nothing of this nature," he said.

Ward 8 Alderman Josh Cohen, who represents Eastport, said he has received more calls from constituents about the hammer assault than any other incident during his three years on the Board of Aldermen.

"These types of crimes, unfortunately, can happen anywhere. We cannot afford to be oblivious," said Cohen, a probation officer.

White's grandfather, Peter Steenland, stood in agreement.

"Locking your doors and keeping your light on [at night] doesn't keep you from being beaten in broad daylight," Steenland said, calling on residents to join the city's neighborhood watch crime prevention program. His statement evoked resounding applause.

Since the meeting, more than 60 Eastport residents have joined neighborhood watch. And as of Friday, calls about criminal activity in the community had jumped drastically, though the increase in reporting may only be temporary, Dalton said.

Sharoff said he hopes the vigilance doesn't fade.

"This is a start. Shame on us if we as a community just let this [momentum] dissipate," he said.

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