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City targets Robinwood

The Baltimore Sun

The city of Annapolis unveiled yesterday a comprehensive and program-heavy plan to clean up the troubled Robinwood neighborhood, emphasizing a community buy-in for new anti-crime and social service initiatives.

This is the second list of recommendations offered this month to turn around the community.

The 30-page proposal calls for a speakers series, a citywide baseball league, community garden and mural projects, alcohol and drug treatment, and more communication between residents, city officials and community organizations.

The proposal also calls for re-establishing Robinwood's neighborhood watch program. The overall cost of the proposal to reclaim the neighborhood is about $770,000, the bulk of which would go to a $500,000 drug intervention program. The report did not indicate who would pay for it.

Many of the ideas overlap with those submitted March 15 by a committee of Anne Arundel County, Annapolis and local housing authority officials, but city officials quickly dismissed most of the authority's suggestions, including 24-hour community policing and the installation of license plate readers.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer convened a citizens committee in January to look at crime on the 10 Annapolis Housing Authority properties and met with residents this fall to help craft the city's proposal. She described it as a work in progress.

"We are looking at programs that people could be engaged in and that could begin to develop a sense of community," she said. "But we can't have community-building programs on property that is not ours without the housing authority saying, 'Yes, we can do it.'"

The city spends about $1.1 million on community and public safety initiatives, which include camps, after-school programs and salaries for two community relation specialists.

"We would enthusiastically welcome any and all city and county service provider of activities to our residents," said Trudy McFall, who heads the agency's board of commissioners. "That should never be a question in anybody's mind because that's exactly what we've been asking for."

McFall said the housing authority said that the agency would also like a stronger police presence on its properties.

Violence involving Annapolis High School students since last fall included a shooting at Westfield Annapolis Mall on a busy Friday night after Thanksgiving and a drive-by shooting of three teens in Annapolis Gardens last month. Police blamed neighborhood rivalries, but stopped short of characterizing the incidents as gang-related.

County Executive John R. Leopold convened a panel of county police and school officials along with city representatives last month to announce a "full-court press" against the violence. Moyer suggested the effort start in Robinwood, which has about 430 residents.

Its preliminary suggestions called to establish a support group for young mothers, create a Robinwood youth baseball team and link city and county programs to the community.

Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson said that sweeps and undercover operations in the community would continue, but said the housing authority's suggestions amounted to empty rhetoric and "ain't ever going to happen."

"Ellen and I are responsible for public safety in this town," he said. "All I ask the housing authority to do is get their residents ready to be involved and we will train them. We need them."


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