Recent Crimes Reveal Residents Unwittingly Invite in Thieves
Police and community organizers have taken a few recent rashes of crime as a chance to remind people to keep their cars doors and homes secured.
Residents in the Savage area received a mid-afternoon phone call on May 22 from the Howard County government warning them of a rash of home break-ins.
A week later, Howard County police spent a night responding to 11 commercial burglaries just three miles away from Savage, in southeast Columbia.
This week also saw the federal indictment of a Columbia man who faces robbery and weapons charges relating to a November incident in Kings Contrivance. Michael "Bloody Mike" Johnson is accused of being a Bloods gang member and is the latest suspect in gang-affiliated crime within the county, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Concerned residents of local community associations have circulated emails from burglary victims and their neighbors, saying they are "scared" and have never seen so much crime around Savage and southeast Columbia.
But local police and community leaders say that despite a short-term spike in burglaries, the rate for these crimes is not on the increase.
Perhaps more importantly, they say many such crimes are preventable.
"We found that our crime is not getting worse–the crime statistics look pretty even from where they were the year before," said Kings Contrivance village manager Anne Brinker. "The problem is that there are more crimes of opportunity."
Brinker has worked with Terrence Benn, a community resource officer for Howard County police, to coordinate meetings with concerned residents and walk through some of the problem areas where people commonly report suspicious activity.
Benn will occassionally go around to cars with open windows and clearly unlocked cars, placing notes reminding residents to secure their property.
"Remove all items of value out of your vehicle," Benn wrote in a crime prevention tip sheet for residents. "Lock your doors… Know your neighbors and learn their habits."
Myra Phelps, lifetime Savage resident and community association secretary, has taken this advice from the police to heart. She recently drove down a few of the streets in her neighborhood, asking folks if their car doors were locked and homes secured.
"It's a shame that you have to take the time to tell people that, but you have to," Phelps said. "It was a disappointment. I was finding ladders to windows. I was finding windows up" and front doors open, she added, providing what would be easy pickings for burglars.
Phelps says "little old Savage" isn't quite the Mayberry-esque neighborhood it was in the past, and people need to take the easy steps that can prevent some of the most common crimes.
"It's a matter of calling your neighbor and keeping in touch with your neighbor. Treat your neighbor like they're your mother or father–look out for them and they'll look out for you," she said.