In reading the subject line, rest assured I expect no Christmas cards or holiday well wishes from those whom it negatively touches most. But the point of this article is to once and for all stop dancing around the issues which are plaguing this town.
Crime and deviant criminal activity are continuously escalating all over Harford County. But as residents of Edgewood it is within our interest to handle our own backyard while other towns/municipalities tackle theirs. It will take residents standing up to our local leaders and officials and demanding action rather than reaction, detainment rather than containment, and accountability rather than election survivability. I hope that I have not lost you yet because now the real conversation begins.
During visits to the Edgewood Community Council meetings, attendees were presented with well outlined charts/graphs representing crime in the Edgewood area immediately followed by reasoning as to why it steadily increases. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office participates in “Crime Reports” (www.crimereports.com) which shows reported incidents, broken down by layers, on a GIS-based map. Any resident looking at this for the first time may be initially alarmed, but look closely and you’ll see the very hot spot in which the Sheriff’s Office in our area spends most of its time and our tax dollars. Surprisingly it’s actually behind the precinct itself. In addressing this subject, why is it we the hardworking residents of Edgewood continue to shelter consistent crime in this “zone” as they frame it? The reason is two-fold and is a product of a mentality of “containment” with the Sheriff’s Office command, and outright negligence of local residents in reporting and/or holding officials accountable for actions taken in response to concerns. Keeping all would-be repeat offenders monitored in a square-mile radius not only defeats the purpose of deterrence, but provides a habitat for birds of a feather.
The true victims are not just Edgewood residents as a whole, but those residents who have lived in these neighborhoods are now trapped. These communities, before they were “hot” zones, are byproducts of what local politicians felt was opportunistic ingestion of low income housing years ago. If I just stepped on your big toe, put some ice on it and settle down. The fact is our area is being disproportionately molested by absentee landlords and low rent units. I do not want to generalize and say all low rent units are the culprits of crime. I believe that such programs are needed, in moderation, and with respective oversight. The key word is oversight. Additionally, I firmly believe your environment is not an excuse for poor behavior, personal responsibility and accountability is central upon every man. It’s whether individuals choose to accept it within their own moral compass. That is the key.
The disproportional application of low income housing/rentals in Edgewood was not only catered on a platter by the local housing authority years ago, but served by local leaders, some of whom today boast the need to now tackle the issue as if riding in on a chariot. How is that repeat offenders can continue to occupy subsidized rental units within the county all the while conducting business as usual and terrorizing those around them working hard to succeed. A ride through some of these areas show numerous units in dilapidation, rampant code violations, while receiving vouchers from the housing authority to absently “lease” these units. There are hard working law abiding citizens surrounded by this. Where is the oversight and accountability from local officials to stop this cycle of automatic money to those who blindly provide haven for criminal elements while quaintly living beyond the realm of personal association? Where are the county officials who say “No” to owning outright dumps and steadily collecting tax dollars sifted in subsidized vouchers? Who will say “No” to continued code violations and quality of life infractions which would bolt the door and condemn these establishments in even the most lenient of HOAs? Meanwhile remember you have hardworking neighborhoods and streets smack dab within these zones which have been engulfed. I ask local leaders to please stop “talking the talk” and start “walking the walk”. To all those leaders, YOU are on notice for accountability and will earn your pay because I’m fed up and encouraging those residents who are equally concerned with me to take a stand and grab our community back.
Cameras placed in “zones” are not going to solve the problem. In fact, Baltimore spent years putting up over 450 blue-light cameras only to phase them out due to poor evidence collection. After that money was spent and wasted, the city went to CCTV which is also providing its fair share of problems. Please do not use federal dollars now coming to Harford County to continue to put up these jokes and eyesores in target communities. Conversely let me offer a community oriented solution which I believe requires fewer tax dollars and helps to ensure the services and legislation we need to fit the quality of life deserved by hardworking residents.
Instead of cameras I encourage residents, even if you don’t live in a bad area, to organize neighborhood watches and document and report (not actively respond) to suspected criminal activity going on in your area. Use the two cameras placed on opposite sides of your nose. This means cooperating with the Sheriff’s Office in providing information for crimes and/or areas of concern. Additionally, by documenting and reporting you help to hold accountable your county officials and assisting local law enforcement in doing a job that is already hampered by “I didn’t see anything” behavior. Do not think that because a larger Southern Precinct is erected a half mile down from the current precinct this will reduce crime. You are sadly mistaken in coming to that conclusion. What will reduce crime are residents standing up, with demanded support of local elected officials, assisting law enforcement. In order to start an active neighborhood watch you need to have the participation of at least 50% of your street. Once participation numbers are gathered, you need to contact the community policing unit of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
Residents demanding more of their local officials and taking personal responsibility for their neighborhoods is only half the battle. Responsibility dually falls on local officials stepping up to the plate and sending a clear message to Harford County, as a whole, that Edgewood will no longer be your feeding ground for absentee landlords and low-rent investment properties for those living outside the crime lines. I do not expect members of the Harford County Council to have a vested interest in standing up to this issue due in part because if this area is not in their jurisdiction they have no obligation. They do have an obligation in making sure their communities and constituents are happy. And if that means once in a while peering over the fence and saying “that’s a shame” then so be it. I don’t hold that against them. I hold that against us as a community for not demanding more and not sending a clear message of clean it up or we’ll find new leaders who will.
It is due time for residents to attend meetings of your local leaders and “keep `em honest”. Know exactly what is going on legislatively so you are prepared to confront and/or support issues that affect individuals and families alike. Do not wait until election season to find out what your officials are doing, trust me they will be sure and let you know topped with a “vote for me” button. Make them accountable to you outside of election year and know exactly what is going on in your community. Edgewood needs to wake up and take what rightfully belongs to its hardworking taxpayers back. There will always be opposition when you demand more, and equally as such when you spotlight practices which have destroyed parts of this community over the years. But the consequences of continuing to wait or table these conversations in local government can no longer afford to be ignored by our community.
Fellow residents, if you do not stand up and voice your concerns, officials will easily conclude that all is well and continue to sidestep you as constituents in remaining silent on the issues that we face today. It took years for this problem to build, meanwhile you have not heard or seen any action to rectify it until now. It has grown into a developmental hurdle for this community, surrounding ones alike, and threatens to crumble the very foundation this community was built on. As goes Edgewood and its residents so goes the dynamic of continuing to draw and retain business and development.
Finally the time for playing politics on Route 40 has to stop. This is not a Democratic or Republican led problem. The tendency for local leaders alike to turn council meetings into blame games year in and year out not only takes away from the true intent of Community Council Charter, it alienates residents who come to try and get real solutions to problems without hearing the same song and dance. Edgewood has one of the most populace communities in Harford County and unfortunately someone at some point in time told you that your concerns and demand for action stop at the community council meetings. I am here to tell you they don’t. Your voice does not stop if not addressed within the meetings. If our population reflected our willingness to demand change in this county, the council would have to bolt the doors on the public comment sessions for fear of going into overtime. Attend the Harford Council meetings and have your concerns and possible solutions ready to go during public comments. When voting time comes don’t look at what politicians start doing six months before-hand…what have they done the rest of the time leading up (regardless of party)? The Harford County Council can’t fix what it doesn’t feel is an issue, especially if we remain silent and allow the same issues to recycle themselves in a whirlpool of politics that has continued over the years.
I’ve been a resident of this community for five years as a DOD member and was often frustrated by the lack of participation in community council meetings. I now understand where the frustration comes from but also understand that change comes with work and action that we have to take ourselves. I encourage all residents to please take a charge to get involved and stop the cycle of “go with the flow”. Get involved and get vocal. We deserve better and residents work too hard in this community to allow the status quo and standing waters of inaction continue to destroy this town.
Ron Chapman will appear live on WAMD 970 AM at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday to discuss Edgewood issues with host Maynard Edwards.
Listen in or watch live at http://khztv.com/wamd/ and call in at (410) 306-6270 with your questions or comments.