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Stephen Puopolo, president of the Harford Square Home Owners Association, commented last week at a session of that Edgewood community association that Edgewood is becoming the "inner city of Harford County."

It's a disturbing observation.

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A little perspective is in order, though. Not all that long ago, Edgewood, or more accurately, an area of a few blocks in Edgewood, was racking up a big city murder rate. The local law enforcement community seems to have a handle on that aspect of the problem, but that doesn't necessarily mean Edgewood's troubles are over. Indeed, community activist Mildred Samy, whose family has been hard hit by violence in Edgewood, said last week she has seen a new generation of thugs. They appear to be trying to one-up the last generation of criminals, which seems to be a natural progression among criminals and criminal gangs.

Indeed, there is a certain inner city aspect to a largely suburban community plagued by drugs and violence. And this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Harford County is an easy commute from Baltimore, as has been evidenced over the years by the number of people who live in the county, but work in the city. The commuter routes, however, go both ways, and the criminal element looks toward places such as Harford County and sees easy pickings.

Economically disadvantaged communities are prime territory for drug dealing and gang recruitment. More affluent neighborhoods are also strong markets for illicit drugs.

Adding to the natural incentive criminals have to target Harford County have been government policies that have sought to disperse some of the more crime-plagued areas of Baltimore, essentially resulting in a banishment of some unsavory elements to the suburbs.

The result has been, as Puopolo put it, a transformation of Edgewood into an inner city of sorts. The disturbing reality of the situation, however, isn't that Harford County has such a problem. It's that such a problem can be considered expected in an inner city, but not in a suburban county.

Harford County is inexorably linked to Baltimore City. The city is the economic engine that makes everything else run. Sure, Harford County has a level of economic self-sufficiency, but not enough to support a rather affluent community of about 250,000 people.

The point in all this is simple: If the people in the affluent parts of Harford County ignore the "inner city" of Edgewood, not to mention the inner city of Baltimore, those areas will continue to expand.

Way back when, Edgewood was one of the early areas where people moved to get away from city problems. Running away from those problems didn't work then, it won't work now and it won't in the future.

The good part in all this is the degree to which people in Edgewood recognize the importance of keeping focused on their community. That people show up at Edgewood Community Council meetings and raise a stink about bad things that happen in their community probably has as much to do with why murders haven't plagued the area in recent years.

Fewer murders, however, is hardly a slogan that sells a neighborhood. The next step is to focus on dealing with other problems in the community.

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