Crime issue raised at BRAC session

The Baltimore Sun

As county and state officials came to Edgewood last night to update citizens on base-relocation planning, a topic on the minds of many in audience was one that has vexed the community in recent months: crime.

Several of the questions that came from those in the crowd of 200 that turned out at Edgewood High School raised concerns about whether funding for police initiatives would lose out to money for improvements in roads, schools and infrastructure.

Three of the four killings in the county this year have occurred in Edgewood, and gang activity has been an issue with which residents and police have grappled.

Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane sought to assure those who attended the quarterly meeting of the BRAC Planning Action Committee.

"I am not looking at BRAC, I'm looking at problems that come with BRAC," Bane said. "There's nothing on the radar that says BRAC will take anything away from the services provided to the Edgewood and Joppa areas."

In fact, Bane said, additional resources would have to flow to the agency, noting the need for at least 60 more deputies. The agency has more than 500 members. Other needs would include new precincts and an expansion of the county detention center.

The meeting, presided over by Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Harford County Executive David Craig, provided updates of other facets of BRAC planning and touched on a recent demographic report that offered a county-by-county breakdown of how many jobs and residents were coming to the region as part of the influx to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The report, conducted by an economic consultant and released last week, said the 27,620 new jobs are expected in the area by 2017, with just more than 19,000 expected to land in Harford County.

As its population grows, Harford will have to expand its hospitals, community college and detention center. Officials reviewed proposals for how local institutions will grow as the population rises.

"This is an overview of where we are in the preparation process," James Richardson, the county's economic development director, said before the meeting. "We also want to let people know where Congress is on funding many of these projects."

Col. Jeffrey S. Weissman, garrison commander at APG, told the audience that the base will be ready by 2011 for the full implementation of BRAC. The post is making the necessary internal personnel moves and has obtained funding to keep the plan on track.

After the meeting, Gwen Roney, whose daughter is a 10th-grader at Edgewood High, said she didn't hear enough about plans to prepare students for the high-technology jobs that are coming.

"We should be taking these kids to the base and showing them what jobs are there," she said. "And we need a lot more mentoring programs."

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