During the quarterly meeting of the Essex Community Association on Thursday, May 2, residents gathered to discuss the matters that hit close to home: crime, homelessness, and other quality of life issues.
Officers Joseph Seckens and Adam Heavner of the Precinct 11 Outreach Unit began the meeting by going over crime trends and statistics.
Seckens explained one case on March 13 during early morning hours when patrol Officers from Precinct 11 received a call for destruction of property on the 300 block of Nicholson Rd. The complainant of the 911 call stated someone was walking up the street damaging vehicles.
“Upon the arrival of officers, they observed damage to several vehicle’s glass windows. Officers searched the area but did not discover possible suspects. Throughout the day, multiple reports for destruction of property were received by patrol officers. Most cases involved vehicle windows being busted out with BB gun and at least one glass door to a residence was shot with a BB gun. In all, at least 18 vehicles and 1 house were affected during this incident,” he said. “The area/streets affected were Berkshire Rd., Nicholson Rd., Riverside Rd., Ida Ave. and Gerries Ave. Several leads were received and for this incident and investigated by officers.”
He said that due to these incidents and the multiple thefts from vehicles that were discussed, selective enforcement was created and patrol officers increased proactive patrol in the area.
“My office, including myself and Officer Heavner have also increased patrol in the area when time allows,” he added.
The officers said there were not any clear patterns in crimes over the past few months but there have been dozens of case of theft from automobiles, especially those that are left unlocked.
The officers’ best advice? Make sure your car doors are locked.
They also encouraged residents to call in any suspicious activity they witness so that the officers can investigate it. The number of calls will also determine which areas are most in need of being patrolled.
“If we don’t know about them, who is going to stop them?”
Multiple concerned residents brought up issues with homeless individuals stealing and dumping stolen grocery carts and asked why the officers cannot arrest these individuals.
Heavner said that the stores themselves need to press charges in order to prosecute and arrest these individuals, which they often do not. A witness and victim are also needed to go to court.
Del. Robin Grammer (R-6), ECA secretary, said that residents can call up and complain to the stores’ corporate headquarters and would work to potentially bring these property managers and developers into the next community meeting.
Continuing on the topic of homelessness in Essex, the next speaker was Patrick Dickerson, the Executive Director of Streets of Hope, an organization made up of a coalition of area churches that provide shelter and outreach in order to help the local homeless community.
Streets of Hope provides overnight shelter for men 18 years or older at a rotating number of churches. Dickerson explained that this summer, they are hoping to set up a permanent residency on the lower floor of Boulevard Christian Church behind the Middlesex Shopping Center.
This shelter would operate from November to April from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and would be run by volunteers and part-time staff.
Many of the meeting’s attendants expressed disapproval of this proposal, saying that they were worried about bringing the homeless men into a residential neighborhood.
Dickerson said that the men they served are already in the area and that Streets of Hope aims to get them into a home by providing them with case management and connections to employment while establishing a personal connection.
“The whole purpose of this is we’re trying to see the people who are a part of this, know what their issues are, and the problems they’re dealing with and find out how we can move them past it,” said Dickerson.
They house around 9-11 people a night who are referred to them via the Department of Social Services. Dickerson said that sex offenders and those who have outstanding warrants or a violent offense on their record from the last two years are not allowed in the shelter.
A special hearing is expected to be held sometime this summer for Streets of Hope to receive a special variance from an administrative law judge in order that would allow them to set up at Blvd. Christian.
“We will communicate to you the information about the hearing as soon as we have it. If you feel strongly about the issue it is critical that you attend the hearing,” said Grammer.
One of the final issues discussed were renovations being done to Eastern Blvd.
Cliff O’Connell of the Eastern Baltimore County Task Force told the crowd that the corridor will be getting new benches, trash cans, and concrete planters.
New banners are also being designed to replace the older, torn, ones.
“Slowly but surely, we’re going to make the boulevard down there look a little bit better,” he said.