Pushing back against a rash of violent crime in Edgewood, Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane is concentrating resources on the area in what he calls a “summer initiative” to tell criminals: “You do not own this community, it belongs the people.”
Along with members of his command staff, Bane unveiled the initiative at a July 3 community meeting, at which he also defended his record and warned that the number of unsolved homicides would rise without greater cooperation from the public. The meeting, held at the Edgewood Recreation and Community Center on Brookside Drive, drew about 20 area residents, plus elected officials and other community leaders.
Violent crime reported in the area over the past six months includes three homicides and four shootings, with a spike beginning in mid-April, according to a list provided by Captain James Eyler of the Criminal Investigations Division. The full list appears below.
In response, police are bringing multiple resources to Edgewood, including increased foot and bike patrols, special details and motor vehicle enforcement, said Capt. John Bowman, head of special operations. Corporal Eric Gonzales from the gang suppression unit said that bike patrols bring police closer to residents who have tips or other vital information for law enforcement. Bane predicted that the motor vehicle stops would spark complaints, but he said that a stop for a minor violation could locate people wanted on outstanding warrants, or lead to arrests on more serious charges.
Less visible moves by police are also planned or underway. Bane said aspects of the initiative were “intentionally vague”, explaining, “I’m not going to tip our hand to the criminal element.”
The effort will require “vast” resources, including overtime pay, and manpower drawn from other areas of the county, Bane said, although he stressed that those areas would not be left unprotected. He later told the group that he had been criticized by political opponents for putting too many resources in Edgewood. Bane is planning a run for re-election in 2014.
The initiative will be reviewed in 30 days for possible adjustments, Bane said, and kept in place as long as necessary. “This is not going to be a show of force”, Bane said, “we’re in this for the long haul…we will be here as long as it takes.”
Bane and his commanders repeatedly stressed the need for cooperation from the community. Listing eight area victims of unsolved homicides since 1988, Bane said, “People in this community know who is responsible for these homicides. The list will grow if the community sits inside.”
He also acknowledged that fear prevented people from coming forward, “We do get it that fear is the biggest obstacle…we will do our best to protect you.”
Drugs and Gangs
“Drugs are the nexus to most of these crimes,” said Cpl. Gonzales. Police are also monitoring gang members who have been in jail and are returning to the area where they are influencing young people, he said.
“Kids like us at certain ages,” and understand that police are there to help, Gonzales said, but their feelings can change when they see police arresting a relative.
Bane told attendees, “If you think that we’re going to drive the gangs out of Harford County, I will pray for that miracle. There will always be a gang influence; we have to stay on top of them.”
Bane urged residents to reactivate their homeowners associations, which he said once had power, but had failed the community in some cases. Citing boarded-up houses, broken windows, pot holes and trash, Bane also encouraged citizens to work with county government to improve conditions, and to get personally involved. He said that ServeFest, a volunteer community improvement program that partnered with local residents would not return to Edgewood because residents hadn’t participated in picking up trash.
With a population of 34,000, Bane also said that Edgewood has political clout that it doesn’t use, citing low voter turnout. He noted that Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace each have police departments serving smaller populations. Bane also urged residents to attend monthly Edgewood Community Council meetings and invited them to ride along with police and attend the citizens’ police academy.
Cpl. Warren Brooks asked parents to stop joking with their kids by saying that the police will lock them up, because it encouraged kids to fear police.
Area residents and local officials in attendance also took turns outlining the problems and offering solutions.
“Who are the people coming down here to buy the drugs? The money is not coming from here,” said Mildred Samy, a community activist and co-founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters of Maryland (M.O.M.S.)
Samy also called for a vocational school in Edgewood, and an extension of Harford Community College. “We need to show [young offenders] that they can be forgiven for one mistake,’ she said.
Daphne Alston, also a co-founder of M.O.M.S., agreed. “Our kids don’t make the drugs or manufacture guns,” she said. Police needed to “look at people with ties and suits,” she said, and make more arrests.
Both Alston and Shaneise Ware questioned police response times. Ware said she gave CPR to a man who was shot and lying on the ground outside her Edgewood home, but waited 20 minutes for police to arrive.
Bane said that he wanted more officers on patrol to cut response times, but his staffing levels at 0.8 per 1,000 in population were low compared to the state and national average of 2.7.
Bane also defended his record overall, saying that Harford County has the second lowest crime rate out of 24 jurisdictions in the state despite a flat budget for the past six years. He said that nearby Cecil County and Baltimore County ranked 20th and 16th lowest respectively, with Baltimore City ranked last at 24th.
Councilman Dion Guthrie, who represents Edgewood and Joppa, complained that Edgewood crime was singled out by the media. “They have murders in Bel Air,” he said, “How often do you hear about that?” Guthrie also said that he is seeking grant money to improve Grempler Way, a private road known for violent crime and the site of the area’s most recent homicide.
Urging his fellow citizens to be more proactive, Jansen Robinson, president of the Edgewood Community Council said that Edgewood has the greatest number of renters in Harford County, many of whom are disengaged. “We have 34,000 people but we don’t have 34,000 people with a vested interest in our community,” he said. Robinson also warned that more arrests will increase the need for re-entry programs to help people who are released from jail in need of housing and jobs.
Guthrie later said that furniture retailer IKEA tried to hire 100 forklift operators in the area but couldn’t find enough people to fill the jobs, even though the company was accepting first offenders with no experience.
Bane said that a re-entry program would soon begin at the Harford County Detention Center, adding that the center also serves as a de-facto homeless shelter, addiction treatment center, and mental health facility. He also decried a “screwed-up” incarceration system that allowed drug dealers to get out on bail while minor criminals stayed behind bars. At the current rate, Bane warned, the detention center will be full by the year 2020.
Bane concluded: “I hope you’re getting the picture. This is not just a policing problem.”
Below is the list of violent crime incidents provided by Captain James Eyler of the Criminal Investigations Division, followed by the open homicide investigations cited by Sheriff Jesse Bane.
Violent Crime Incidents
201200251902 12/29/2012 Domestic Shooting 1850 Grempler Way
Suspect: Keef Burley B/M 03/1992 charged with shooting sister through front door.
201300021044, 01/31/2013 Homicide, 1701 Trimble Road, Cunion Field
Victims: Michael Wayne Kearins b/m 10/95 (deceased) and w/m 8//94
Suspect: Charged Garfield Smith B/M 10/91 charged.
201300069723 04/14/2013 Assault Edgewood Shopping Center
Suspect: 17 year old juvenile W/M 11/1995 charged as adult.
201300074541, 4/21/13, Homicide, 1731 B Fountain Rock Way
Victim: Robert Wesley Johns w/m 2/62.
Still active investigation
201300083168, 74837, 04/21/13 & 5/3/13, 2 – robberies at Good time liquors and 1 at Royal Farms.
Suspect in these cases has been arrested and charged, Byron Stanley Woods b/m 3/70 Positive ID on 13-83168 for which we charged. MSP had one case Baltimore County has charged him as well in connection with some cases they are handling.
201300085617, 5/7/13. Armed Robbery Royal Farms, 630 Edgewood Road.
Suspect, Jammall Nathaniel Jackson b/m 10//80 charged
201300098810, 5/27/13, Shooting, Brookside Drive near basketball courts,
Victim not cooperative
201300105051, 6/6/13, Shooting, 1800 block of Grempler Way.
Victim not cooperative b/m 8//84.
201300108082, 6/10/13, Assault non-fatal shooting 1800 Block of Grempler Way
Juvenile Suspect b/m 15 yrs. charged as a juvenile and transported to Hickey.
201300110434, 6/14/13, 1st degree assault by pointing handgun 800 block of Windstream Way.
Suspect: Johnny Bolden b/m 7/9/59 arrested Gun recovered as result of S&S Warrant in the 1800 block of Eloise Lane
201300116547, 6/22/13, Homicide Grempler Way
Victim Quinton Arvel Stokes b/m 3/87.
Still active investigation
Open Homicide Investigations
1). 1988-Patricia Burns: Stabbing (Winters Run Rd.)
2). 2006- Waverly Lewis & Randolph Goodson : Shooting: (double homicide 1329 Gold Meadow Way)
3). 2007- Tyree Brown Shooting: 1880 Grempler Way
4). 2009- Brandon Saunders Shooting: (Harford Sq. W Ct.)
5). 2011- Christopher Alves: Shooting (1383 Harford Sq. Dr. O Ct.)
6). 2013- Robert Johns: Shooting (1731 Fountain Rock Way)
7). 2013- Quinton Stokes: Shooting (cut through to Grempler Way)