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Top officials seek to reassure jittery Charles Village residents

Linda Trinh
Baltimore's top two law enforcement officials tried to calm the fears of Charles Village residents last night in the aftermath of the killing of a Johns Hopkins University student, the firebombing of a community activist's house in Harwood and a triple slaying at a group home in Remington.

The Charles Village Civic Association invited acting Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm and State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to attend its monthly meeting last night to address an upswing in property crimes, as well as the recent violence, including the killing of Hopkins senior Linda Trinh, who was found dead in her Charles Street apartment Sunday.

The firebombing and triple slaying occurred in nearby communities, and Charles Village residents say they represent an unsettling surge of violence in the city's northern neighborhoods.

At the meeting in SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church on Charles Street, residents asked Hamm if the Police Department had shifted resources out of the Northern District in order to attack crime in other parts of the city. Some said they had noticed a decrease in police activity in the area.

"I see more police in this room than I have seen in the past three years in my neighborhood," said Emily Chalmers, who has lived on the border of Charles Village and Harwood for about seven years. "What I see is that people don't pay attention to our neighborhood."

Longtime Charles Village resident Lee Jaslow asked Hamm to describe how he distributes police resources across the city. With police focused on the Trinh killing and other recent high-profile crimes, "where does that leave the rest of the community?" Jaslow asked.

Hamm told Jaslow that no matter what happens, police officers will be available to help residents. Hamm said he meets with his command staff every morning to re-evaluate what resources - human and otherwise - commanding officers in each of the city's nine districts need to fight crime.

Baseline staffing numbers ensure that no district is left unprotected, he said. "We will always keep the baseline."

The acting police commissioner conceded, however, that violent crime is his main focus.

"I think that the Police Department should concentrate first on getting guns off the streets and the violent people who use them off the street," he told the crowd of about 150 residents. "Something can be done about homicides and shootings in the city."

Residents also received an update on the firebombing and triple slaying.

Six men have been arrested and charged with attempted murder, arson and related felonies in the Jan. 15 attack on the home of Harwood Community Association President Edna McAbier.

In the Remington case, in which three men were fatally shot and another was wounded, police have arrested one suspect and are searching for a second. The attack was apparently sparked by a debt one of the slaying victims owed to a drug dealer.

But it is the killing of Trinh, 21, a popular biomedical engineering student and former sorority president from Silver Spring, that rocked the Hopkins campus.

Maj. Richard C. Fahlteich, commander of the homicide detectives division, said earlier in the day that detectives conducted interviews near her apartment building at 3333 N. Charles St. again yesterday.

The medical examiner's office determined that Trinh - half-clothed and face-down in a partially filled bathtub - died of asphyxiation. Investigators are trying to determine whether she was sexually assaulted. "We don't know," Fahlteich said.

Hopkins officials announced yesterday that they will hasten plans to install a closed-circuit camera system in and around the campus. Previously, the campus' director of security had said that the system was six to nine months away. The closed-circuit camera system would cover part of campus, as well as University Parkway to 29th Street and St. Paul Street to Charles Street.

Plans for the system arose out of the killing last April of Hopkins junior Christopher Elser, who was stabbed to death by an intruder inside a bedroom of his fraternity house. The killing remains unsolved.

During her part of the community meeting last night, Jessamy talked about her efforts to change state law to provide more protection for police witnesses.

Her office is backing three bills that would increase the maximum prison time for intimidating a witness from 5 years to up to 20 years.

She said her office is also working with communities to stamp out quality-of-life crimes.

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