Violent Crime On The Rise In Eastern Baltimore County
The murder rate in Eastern Baltimore County is climbing.
And people who live there say crime in general is getting worse in their community.
They gave Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and his new police chief, Melissa Hyatt, an earful about it a public hearing on policing Monday on the executive’s home turf in Dundalk, at the Community College of Baltimore County’s campus there.
Countywide, crime is down about 4 percent so far this year, but the murder rate is up. There were 27 homicides throughout last year. We are nearing the half way mark of 2019 and there already have been 18 murders county wide, half of them on the East side, from Belair Road south to the Anne Arundel County line.
That’s according to Olszewsi’s press secretary T.J. Smith, who told those at the public hearing that aggravated assaults are up 20 percent in that area as well.
A number of speakers at the hearing expressed frustration about the crime rate.
Janet Hoskins, a lifetime resident of Eastern Baltimore County, told Olszewski and Hyatt, “I am fed up.”
Hoskins said she called county police about drugs and prostitution going on in two neighborhoods and was told it would take two weeks to have a detective assigned to her case.
Hoskins challenged Olszewski, “Where are the resources to this side of Baltimore County where you were elected from because you are from Baltimore County and the Dundalk area?”
Olszewski said his first budget as county executive, which takes effect next week, will have unprecedented resources for the police department. And Olszewski, a graduate of Sparrows Point High School, defended his east side bone fides.
“I’ve lived it,” Olszewski said. "Patapsco Avenue, Saint Helena, the last 10 years of my life.”
Chief Hyatt told Hoskins the two week delay is not acceptable and she would get to the bottom of it.
Stephen Perseghin blamed the increasing violence on a growing open air drug market in Dundalk.
“In the community I live in, Old Dundalk, if you are walking through the area you can hear people selling drugs,” Perseghin said. “You can hear them yelling about how they’re going to get this person or that person because they feel as though they’ve been wronged having to do with illicit drugs.”
Hyatt, who took over as chief just last week, told Perseghin that area is being targeted by the police department.
Hyatt also promised that the area’s violent crime numbers will improve.
“Even once those numbers come down, our job is to also manage the perception of safety,” Hyatt said. “And it’s critically important for you to feel safe where you live, where you work, where you shop, where you go to worship.”
Amy Menzer, executive director of Dundalk Renaissance, said crime as well as lax code enforcement is taking its toll.
“It sort of adds to people’s feelings of helplessness, frustration, them choosing to not reinvest in their home, leaving if they can or feeling just completely desperate if they can’t afford to move anywhere,” Menzer said.
Olszewski also brought up the fights that erupted at Eastpoint Mall in April that led to 26 arrests and shut down a carnival, Olszewski said they plan to tighten up permits for carnivals and special events. Legislation may be introduced in the Baltimore County Council this summer that would do just that.
“For example, in Baltimore County, people were not required to submit a safety plan per se as part of their application process,” Olszewski said. “That will change. And it will change very soon.”
As she settles in as chief, Hyatt said she plans to visit all of the county’s precincts by the end of this week. She is promising a better trained and equipped and a more transparent and accountable police department.