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Craig backs camera plan

The Baltimore Sun

A crime-fighting tool that has paid dividends when put to use in Baltimore and Aberdeen now is the focus of Harford County officials looking to turn back the tide of crime in Edgewood.

The use of surveillance cameras, the topic of frequent discussion in the community in recent weeks, took an important step forward last week when County Executive David R. Craig offered his support for the plan.

"This won't happen overnight, but I have asked the sheriff to look into the cameras," Craig said Friday.

The details still need to be worked out, including funding and exactly what type of technology will be used.

"We would like mobile equipment as opposed to fixed, and will need to decide what kind, how many and where we will put them," Craig said.

In Aberdeen, two surveillance cameras have been mounted in the town's higher-crime areas. The cameras rotate 360 degrees and are monitored from the city's police station. Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said prosecutors have used footage from the cameras in a drug case.

"Because of that film, we had enough to get a conviction," Cassilly said. "So it just seemed like an idea that should be explored for Edgewood."

Last week at the Boys and Girls Club in Edgewood, Craig and Sheriff L. Jesse Bane met with residents to address concerns about crime in the wake of a fatal shooting Aug. 11, the third homicide in the area this year.

In addition to cameras, Bane said, two deputies would be assigned to foot patrol in the Brookside Drive neighborhood. He also urged members of the community to be part of the solution to crime.

Bane referred to the "broken-windows theory," which suggests that ignoring minor problems - such as broken windows, graffiti and trash - can lead to further deterioration of a community.

"We need to do a little bit so we don't have any broken windows in your community," the sheriff said to residents. "If you drive through the community, there is trash. I don't mean to offend you, but it's in the lawn, the streets. ... We have to clean up the community."

County officials said they would crack down on minor offenses, ticketing owners who have cars with outdated or missing tags, people violating open-container laws and underage smokers.

"These are the little things that determine what the quality of life is for the community," Bane said. "If you want to take back the community, this is what you have to do."

A volunteer foot patrol also is in the works. In recent months, County Council member Dion F. Guthrie, whose district includes Edgewood, has collaborated with sheriff's deputies and the Baltimore chapter of the Guardian Angels to bring the red beret-wearing street patrollers to Edgewood.

The worldwide organization consists of community volunteers who carry walkie-talkies or radios and walk through neighborhoods to keep watch. The patrols have a discernible impact on the community, said Marcus Dent, the commander of the Baltimore chapter. The Baltimore Angels patrol the Pigtown area.

"The biggest part of being a Guardian Angel is the visibility," Dent said. "The Guardian Angel presence makes a difference in the community. Once you have that consistent presence, people that don't want to be there leave, and they're gone."

The Guardian Angels plan to use office space at the Edgewood library and have recruited several volunteers in the county in recent months.

At last week's community meeting, many residents described a deteriorating community, where gang symbols hang from trees, young troublemakers roam the streets and residents are fearful. Two weeks ago, Samuel David Horne was killed in a daytime shooting in the 1800 block of Brookside Drive. A suspect in the killing, Sean Nelson Smith, was arrested in Stamford, Conn., on Thursday.

Tennielle Hinson, a mail carrier who lives in the Brookside neighborhood, recently was transferred to a route in Edgewood from the Baltimore neighborhood of Cherry Hill, which has struggled with its own crime problems.

"I don't feel safer than I did in Cherry Hill," she told county officials and the crowd of nearly 100 people who packed the gymnasium.

Horne's mother, Mildred Samy, pushed for residents to work with one another.

"The community needs to come together and fight and get rid of this," she said. "Police cannot do it by themselves."

Samy said the county should form programs to help youngsters and ex-offenders keep out of trouble.

"Although everything is being done as far as the policing effort, there are other solutions to the problem, too," she said. "We need to put these young adults to work. A good majority are ex-offenders who can't find jobs. All the doors are closed to them. We've got to put these people to work and take the guns out of their hands."

Meanwhile, the number of killings in the county increased to four when the July death of an Edgewood man who was beaten nine days earlier was ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner.

About 11 p.m. July 22, Bradley Wayne Goff, 20, was attacked and hit his head on the pavement, said Cpl. Jim DeCourcey of the Maryland State Police. The attack occurred in the 300 block of Laburnum Road in Edgewood.

Goff was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and died of his injuries nine days later. State police have sent a report to the state's attorney's office, which will determine whether the assailant will be charged.

Sun reporter Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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