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Panel seeks to halt clashes

The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County, Annapolis and local housing authority officials yesterday proposed flooding the troubled Robinwood community in Annapolis with more police patrols, activities for teens and social services for parents to reduce violence, but have yet to determine how to pay for the initiatives.

The panel's recommendations were its first step since announcing a collaborative "full-court press" in the neighborhood. The panel of law enforcement, government, public housing and school leaders also recommended opening a police substation and installing a license plate reader at the entrance of the apartment complex to deter drug dealers and buyers.

County Executive John R. Leopold, who has spearheaded the effort after shootings involving Annapolis High students, said yesterday that he's "keeping the initiative in mind," with a focus on parenting and transportation, as he puts together his budget for next year.

"We are all stakeholders and in the same boat, and I'm committed. And, we all have an important role to make this plan work," Leopold said. "But a plan is only as good as its implementation, and we're all on the same page to make it work."

County officials have said that rising costs of retiree health care, negotiations on 10 labor contracts and infrastructure improvements in western Anne Arundel could add $200 million annually to the county's operating budget, which grew to $1.1 billion this year - a situation Leopold has described as a "looming fiscal tsunami."

Officials at yesterday's meeting, which was held at school board headquarters, identified county and city programs that could be linked to Robinwood - such as the Stork's Nest program, which focuses on pre-natal health. Another idea is to have Anne Arundel Community College's Parenting Center offer classes.

"I think a lot of it can be done by coordinating resources," said schools superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell. "By working together and supporting each other we might be able to get more bang for our dollar."

The Annapolis Housing Authority on March 2 began providing a van to transport teens to the Boys and Girls Club. To combat crime in Robinwood - home to 432 low-income residents - the agency plans to repair fencing, improve lighting and track traffic in the community.

The agency is also looking at stepping up community policing in the neighborhood, drawing from $400,000 in city and agency funds, and monitor rivalries on Myspace.com, a social networking Web site frequented by teens.

Executive director Eric C. Brown said he was unsure how much more money the agency could put into additional efforts. The agency already spends $250,000 annually to operate five community centers. New initiatives will include a Saturday teen night and the addition of a Robinwood baseball team to the city league.

Authorities say violence this school year involved, at least in part, rivalries between the Robinwood and Annapolis Gardens communities. Last month, a shooting at Annapolis Gardens prompted county and city leaders to act.

Smaller workgroups will meet in the coming weeks.

"We have to be constant with whatever we do," said Kirby McKinney, who works in community outreach for the city of Annapolis.


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