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Eastport group demands action on crime

The Baltimore Sun

Frustrated with crime in their neighborhood, residents of Eastport are demanding that city officials present an action plan to combat lawlessness within a month.

About 40 members of a new group, Stop the Gunfire in Eastport Now, waved signs and expressed worries to the Annapolis city council Monday night about what they see as a surge of crime in the waterfront community.

"The citizens of Annapolis care more about the safety of our families and friends than artwork on city walls, planted trees, brick sidewalks, our sister city in Scotland, plastic bags and all the other ephemeral and aesthetic issues in which the mayor and some members of the city council take such delight," said member Stanford Erickson.

"Those are pretty things. I am a poet. I take delight in them, too. The gunshots, crime and killings are a matter of life and death - both ours and yours. We want action now."

After the meeting, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer criticized the group's strategy, saying that instead of acting as "problem solvers," they were acting as "rhetorical bomb throwers."

"What I don't get from them is an indication that they want to partner in any way," she said. "To assert that we're ignoring the issue is plain folly."

As evidence that crime is out of control, group members noted the Nov. 17 shootout in the Harbour House public housing community in which an Annapolis man was killed after opening fire on eight police officers seeking to serve him with a warrant. He shot one officer.

They also said gunfire and robberies are frequent.

Julie Mussog said gunshots at night awaken her 2-year-old son and that he runs into her bedroom, crying, "Mommy, Mommy, I need you."

"I'm terrified one of these days one of those bullets will hit him," Mussog told the council.

More police needed

In a related issue, Doug Smith, president of the Ward One Residents Association, which represents downtown, presented a petition to the council asking police officials to report monthly to the council on its recruiting effort. The Police Department has 110 officers, down from 117 in 2006 and 21 fewer than it is authorized to employ.

A police spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Critics have said putting more police on the streets could put a dent in crime. Moyer said she would like the department to be staffed with at least 117 officers but that monthly updates would amount to "micro-management of the department."

She said recruiting and training officers takes many months. Four recruits entered the police academy in January for the six-month course.

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