Despite violence, most residents are still happy in Oakland Mills

The Baltimore Sun

Robin Brodkin awoke early Saturday to the sound of two gunshots.

A man had been shot and killed on the parking lot of Stevens Forest Apartments, just buildings away from where she lived.

But Brodkin, who has lived in Oakland Mills for 16 years and in Columbia since she was 4, is happy with her community. "It shocked me a little bit," Brodkin, 44, said of the homicide. "But it's still a good apartment complex. ... I wouldn't move to another place."

Despite two shootings, one fatal, that occurred in Oakland Mills last weekend, many residents say they are still happy to live in the village, which is one of Columbia's oldest.

"I often tell people I love Columbia," Brodkin said.

She added that the revitalization of Oakland Mills has added life to the village, which was created in 1971.

Barbara Russell, former chairwoman of the Columbia Association board, has lived in Oakland Mills since its start. She said that although the community's economic revitalization, which began about eight years ago, was not tied to crime, the community worked with police to combat violence and to prevent it.

"Crime has certainly been, at times, an issue in Oakland Mills," Russell said. "When crime became an issue, we have worked very closely with the Police Department."

Russell noted that the police conducted an undercover narcotics operation a few years ago in Oakland Mills and other villages when drugs became an issue.

"Perhaps that is the kind of concentration that we need again," she said.

Russell, Police Chief William J. McMahon and Oakland Mills residents have said that they believe the community is safe. Russell said that many in the village are longtime residents, and "a lot of people have a lot of pride about living in Oakland Mills."

"We just tend to be very vigilant about keeping our area safe," she added.

"When there's a crime committed here, that brings the focus of the newspaper on our village. ... It is an unusual occurrence, and while we certainly want to take any steps so that [homicides] don't happen again, that's basically not the focus of our village."

L.J. Burke, who lives in Shadow Oaks, said neighbors want to feel safe and that violent crimes make people fearful. She said she is not afraid to live in the Oakland Mills complex, despite Sunday's shooting. But she believes that others might be fearful.

"I think people are still concerned," said Burke, 51. She has lived in Oakland Mills for 10 years and in Columbia for 34 years. "It's been really tense. I think there are people here who are genuinely frightened."

Burke said she has noticed that in the past year and a half, there has been a significant increase in the number of petty crimes in Oakland Mills, including liquor and grocery store break-ins.

"It's a behavior that we haven't seen before," she said. "I think those are the kinds of crimes that make people on edge."

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