ESSEX — Residents are frustrated with county officials after a triple shooting that left two dead and one injured in an Essex neighborhood.
An impromptu walking community meeting of Baltimore County government officials and Baltimore County community groups mid-day Tuesday intended to address concerns.
Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr. said the purpose of the meeting was to “bring all the resources of Baltimore County together” to let residents know his administration and all County departments are “being proactive in coming to them. We have everything from our police department, code enforcement, economic development, public works — we really have everyone who might be able to touch a person’s life.”
The coalition walked the neighborhood where the Saturday morning shooting occurred, as frustrated residents told new Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt that they don’t feel heard by law enforcement.
Although several neighbors did speak to officials — and some were reassured — the walk-through started at about 11:30 a.m., during a time when many residents are at work.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” said an Essex woman from her front porch. “We do call [the police] about things. We either don’t get a response, or you’ve got to call and call and call and call. People have stopped calling.”
Hyatt and Olszewski spoke with the woman, who echoes many concerns heard throughout Eastern Baltimore County.
“This is a really exciting opportunity that the County Executive is spearheading,” Hyatt told local media. “It really brings county agencies together to look — not just at crime in the neighborhood — but in ways that we can improve communities.”
At a previous public safety town hall, both Olszewski and Hyatt have iterated a commitment to community-based policing.
Hyatt and Olszewski both were pleased that the impromptu walking meeting brought out more than half a dozen county officials.
“I think one of the most important things is when you look around at all these different agency heads and all the different employees that are here supporting this initiative,” she told The Dundalk Eagle and The Avenue News. “It makes you see that — whether it’s crime or it’s a pothole or a vacant home that hasn’t been tended to — that these are things we all need to work on collectively. And when we can work on these things collectively, we create better, stronger communities.”
Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell, R-7, was also in attendance. He said it’s “important” to showcase to the community that the resources of Baltimore County are “behind this neighborhood and other neighborhoods.”
Crandell, like Hyatt and Olszewski, acknowledge struggles and disappointment in residents, from increasing violence to code enforcement issues.
“Our office is trying to work with the administration in a collaborative way to help,” he said. “We need to be honest that violent crime is on the increase and the entire County government needs to reassure our communities that efforts across all agencies are underway to improve our quality of life.”
Crandell also said that judges need to “get on board,” advocating for punitive measures to crime.
“All relevant agencies, that are involved in public safety or quality of life issues are represented here,” he said. “I think that this administration is trying to change the face of Baltimore County government and to make sure that it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Also participating in the community walk was a representative from the County’s Department of Health REACH team. They were on hand to let community members know the team exists, and to talk about their mission — assisting individuals with the necessary resources to help enhance their quality of life.
Baltimore County Officer Dennis Delp said that the coalition was meeting with community members to “get a feel” for their concerns and to discuss collaborative solutions.
“A lot of the times police get calls that aren’t specifically related to crime,” he said. “But there are other people and groups in county government that we can reach out to and get assistance.”
Residents spoke with elected officials and county workers, though no solid action plan came directly from the informal meeting.
“We’re both still pretty new to our jobs,” Olszewski said to an Essex woman of he and Chief Hyatt.
“This meeting today is very representative of all the problems we have throughout the Baltimore region,” said Delegate Robin Grammer, R-6. Grammer called for increased scrutiny of repeat offenders, blaming population density and “row home communities” for crime.
“These row home communities are more affordable housing communities that are densely populated, and this is where all of our problems are,” he said. “This can’t just be another meeting where we come out and talk and we don’t take any action. I think people are tired of that, and they’re ready for us to do something about it.”
“Violence needs to stop before it gets out of hand,” Del. Ric Metzgar, R-6, said. He continued, saying it’s a “good thing” for elected government officials to come to the community.
“The hope is for the community to see results from these kinds of initiatives, so they can start to have faith in their government,” Hyatt said. “That’s really what we’re hoping for.”