BY KAYLA BAWROSKI, email@example.com
10:51 PM EDT, November 5, 2011
Though Harford County’s sheriff says overall crime trends in the county are dropping, the gang problem persists, including in Bel Air, where more than two dozen active gang members have been identified, according to local police officials.
Members from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office command team hosted a town hall meeting Saturday morning, where they discussed everything from the crime trends in Harford County to facilities construction projects. Between 75 and 100 people attended.
Sheriff Jesse Bane started the meeting at Harford Technical High School by citing statistics for the county’s main law enforcement organization, including that Harford has the fifth lowest crime among Maryland counties and a lower crime rate now than when the Uniform Crime Reporting system was started in 1975.
Per 100,000 population, the county’s crime rate is 2,173.8 now, compared to 4,336 then, he said.
Although the crime rate is dropping, Bane also said the sheriff’s office is “very conscious” that Harford County also has one of the highest fatality rates in the state of Maryland from traffic accidents.
The sheriff’s office has formed a traffic task force with Maryland State Police and the police departments of Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace to tackle these issues, he added.
Their focus going forward is gang activity, violence, career criminals, juvenile crimes and traffic, Bane said.
Later in the presentation, when residents posed questions about the prevalence of gangs in Harford County, Capt. John Bowman did acknowledge there are several gangs active, including Bloods, Crips and Dead Man Incorporated.
The gang activity is more prevalent in the southern part of the county, Bowman said, but he also said there are approximately 28 gang members whom police have identified in Bel Air.
Capt. Joe Mina discussed the case clearance rates in 2009, 2010 and so far in 2011 by the Criminal Investigation Division, praising Harford County’s clearance rates in the mid-20 percent range, in comparison to national averages in the teens.
Clearance rates for crimes involving weapons also are high, Mina said.
Harford County Detention Center Warden Elwood Dehaven briefly spoke about the expansion of the detention center, saying they are “right at completion,” projected to be next month.
Included in the expanded detention center will be a medical wing and a future behavioral health unit, Dehaven said.
Earlier in the presentation, Bane acknowledged that though the detention center used to be simply a jail, it also has evolved into a mental health hospital, homeless shelter and addiction recovery center.
Maj. Dale Stonesifer gave an update on the southern precinct construction, which is 82 percent completed and expected to be ready in January.
The two-story building will have a community room and space to house equipment, for which they are currently renting space at $42,000 per year, Stonesifer said.
The meeting concluded with Bane and his command staff hearing comments, questions and concerns from those in attendance, which ranged from praise for the sheriff’s office’s bicycle patrols on Halloween to questions about following crime in individual neighborhoods.
For tracking crimes, according to Bane, the sheriff’s office is using a system called Crime Reports, so residents can look up crimes in their area.
In an answer to another question, Northern Precinct Capt. Keith Warren briefly discussed the Youth Services Division of the sheriff’s office that strives to give young people in the community more understanding and insight into having a career in the criminal justice field, either through law enforcement or in the judicial system.
Susan Burdette, who is running town commissioner seat in Bel Air, asked Bane about help for parents who want to get help for children addicted to prescription drugs.
Bane suggested making contact with the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy and also encouraged parents to call the Harford County Health Department.
For more information on the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and ways to connect to the organization, go to http://www.harfordsheriff.org.