Greater light rail security sought

The Baltimore Sun

Responding to growing concerns about crime at light rail stops in northern Anne Arundel, County Executive John R. Leopold has called on the state's transit administrator to permanently place patrols at three stations and bolster other security measures.

In a letter sent last week to Maryland Transit Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld, Leopold said his administration has received several complaints from residents and riders of the light rail system in Anne Arundel.

Leopold's comments come a month after a twice-convicted rapist was charged with raping a 22-year-old woman at the Nursery Road stop in Linthicum, and less than two weeks after a taxi driver was robbed at gunpoint by a passenger she dropped off at the same station.

Residents have expressed concern about poor lighting and the lack of police presence at the light rail stations, given the string of robberies at some sites.

Leopold said in an interview Friday that his intention was to bring the issue of security "from [the] back burner to the front burner."

"Some of the crime that has occurred, such as breaking into cars, are related to the light rail stations. Some of it is not," he said. "Clearly, we want to make sure these stations are adequately protected."

Leopold wants officers stationed at the Cromwell, North Linthicum and Nursery Road stations -- the stations with the highest number of crimes reported in recent months.

Numerous attempts to reach MTA representatives on Friday were unsuccessful.

MTA officials are in the process of installing surveillance cameras at all five North County stations, and Leopold said that effort should be expedited.

After MTA funding for county police was pulled in 2005, county officials said they received assurances from the state agency's police force that it would be assigned to patrol the stations and perform periodic checks of parking lots.

Leopold said in the letter that it's his understanding that MTA police use mobile patrols at the stops. A county police spokesman said Friday that county officers also perform periodic checks of the stations and respond to emergency calls.

Residents, though, said that county police resources are spread too thin. In the past six months, county police have reported a total of seven robberies, five assaults and 16 thefts at the Cromwell, Linthicum, North Linthicum and Nursery Road stations. Ferndale had no reported robbery, theft or assault.

County Councilman Daryl D. Jones said Wiedefeld has assured him that the surveillance cameras will be installed by April.

Yolande Dickerson, vice president of Pumphrey's civic association, applauded Leopold's effort to gain more security help from the state. "I think that's a plus for us that we have someone of his caliber behind us," she said.

An article in Sunday's Anne Arundel County section misidentified Yolande Dickerson as vice president of the Taxpayers Improvement Association of Pumphrey. The vice president is Albert Ross. The Sun regrets the error.
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