After decades of pushing for increased police presence, residents of the Route 198 corridor praised the opening of a new police substation serving the Russett, Maryland City and Laurel communities.
Although no police officers will be headquartered at the substation, the office is intended to increase police presence by giving officers a place to file reports and perform other administrative tasks instead of driving to the station in Odenton, said Lt. Jeffrey Silverman of Anne Arundel County police.
"Without that station, the officers would have to leave the 198 corridor, which would leave a lot less presence out there," Silverman said of the Russett-Maryland City Community Office, which opened Wednesday in the professional building at 3450 Laurel-Fort Meade Road.
Citizens and community leaders had been pushing for the substation since their homes were built in the 1970s because they were so removed from the rest of the county, said Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association. Even when a Western District station opened on Telegraph Road in Odenton, residents said it still wasn't enough.
"They call that the Western District," Smallwood said. "Well, I got news for you. We're the real Western District. That's like calling Colorado the west when you've got California and two other states between them."
Although crime has not increased in the area recently, community leaders and county officials say the Route 198 corridor is particularly vulnerable because it is at the junction of Prince George's, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, making it a convenient spot for crimes such as drug trafficking and car theft.
"Easy access and easy getaway," Smallwood said. "It's easy for people to jump from one boundary to another."
Adding to the need for increased police visibility is the area's burgeoning growth, Smallwood said.
Although the office is not currently staffed round-the-clock, the three to five officers and the detectives assigned to the Laurel area are asked to use it for interviews and paperwork, and reserve officers are told to make visits as well, Silverman said.
The community also is trying to staff the office for an eventual 24-hour operation, Smallwood said.
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said the substation may be small, but it is strategically located.
"Everyone just feels better that there is a community police office there," she said. "It is more about the appearance of presence in my mind."
The station may be a good start, but it's not the end-all solution to crime in the area, community leaders said.
"It's not as big as some people want, it doesn't have jails and other things built into it, but it's something we didn't have before," said Tim Reyburn, president of the Russett Community Association.
Ideas for the future include a police office that would be more visible than a suite in an office building, or even a whole new precinct for the area, said County Council candidate Jamie Benoit.
"We could put a sign in the road and the world would know there's a police station out here, and that's a great thing, but you have to do more, I think," Benoit said.