Perry Hall Farms, a large residential community between Honeygo Boulevard and Forge Road, is a low-crime area—but residents say it takes hard work to keep it that way.
The Perry Hall Farms Citizens on Patrol group, one of Perry Hall's most active neighborhood watch organizations, participated in on Tuesday evening. Members and neighbors gathered for dinner, shared crime prevention tips and met with police and safety experts from the White Marsh store.
Gail Chatfield, who started the group in March, said crime—especially theft, burglaries and vandalism—seems to be down in the area.
"Some people are really noticing. They're stopping us, thanking us, waving to us. Now if we could just get more people to join," Chatfield said.
The group includes about 15 official members. They receive training and special updates from police, and spend one to two hours per week driving around the neighborhood.
"Their job is to be our best witnesses. They never approach a suspect. If they see something suspicious, they call 911 immediately," said Ofc. Dale Sewell, who works in community outreach with the group. "We've never had a problem. They know their jobs and do them well."
Member Tracie Swando said the group's work is especially important in an area with a high concentration of young families, including her own.
"Maybe it's a little obnoxious, seeing us driving around, but it's still better than having someone come into my property," Swando said.
Capt. Micheal Balog of the White Marsh police precinct called it a "solid group." In February, Balog participated in a at the about the benefits of COP groups, but the response from area neighborhoods has generally remained low, he said.
"It would be great if Perry Hall had more COPs," Balog said.
Chatfield said COP groups and activity within them will grow as people become more aware of crime near their own homes.
"You know people—they won't do something until things start happening," she said.
Anyone interested in starting a Citizens on Patrol group in the Perry Hall area is encouraged to contact Sgt. Angie Mickle of the White Marsh Community Outreach Unit at 410 887-5035.
Would your neighborhood support the creation of a Citizens on Patrol group? Tell us in the comments.