Does the village of Long Reach have a public relations problem?
If you asked the attendees at Friday night’s public meeting held in the wake of the fatal stabbing of , the answer might be yes.
“People look at the crime here and say, ‘Oh it’s Long Reach….We expect that,'” one woman said. “But it’s still Columbia…It’s still Howard County…I think people judge.”
Another woman called the PR issue “a thorn in our community.”
Hall was stabbed multiple times while in his home on the 8700 block of Airybrink Lane at about 10 p.m. July 27, according to the Howard County Police Department.
Long Reach High School junior Xavier Trevon Bates, 18, 9089 Lambskin Lane, Columbia, is charged with first- and second-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault in the stabbing, according to police.
Howard County Councilman Calvin Hall hosted Friday night’s event, which was held at and included a question and answer session with several members of the Howard County Police Department regarding public safety.
“In light of the tragedy I wanted to start the process of healing,” Ball said.
According to Capt. Dan Coon, overall crime in Long Reach is down.
Coon said that disorderly conduct, which is one of the police department’s most frequent response issues, is down about 8 percent from 133 incidents by this time last year to 123 through June of this year.
In addition, drug violations have gone down about 24 percent.
Officials attributed the drop in crime to a “stepped up” police presence in the area.
“The crime rate is very, very low,” said Major Merrit Bender, comparing the area with other regions in Maryland. “However when something like [the stabbing] happens all the good things don’t seem to matter…It really scares people.”
Police said they believed Hall and Bates were involved in a fight earlier in the day and that Bates had come to Hall’s home to fight him again, forcing himself into Hall’s apartment, where he stabbed Hall several times before fleeing on his bicycle.
Police do not believe the fight was drug or gang-related.
Sgt. Justin Baker said the cause of the argument is unknown.
“I can’t go into great depth,” Baker said. "We're looking at everything."
Residents at the meeting asked questions about the viability of the Long Reach police substation.
Coon said that for the moment the substation will remain open.
One member of the crowd expressed dissatisfaction with the way police allegedly treated her during a robbery
“How are we supposed to put that value and our faith into you,” she said. “I feel victimized by you as well….You are making us feel worse than we already feel.”
Coon said residents who experience such problems should contact him directly.
“We’re here to serve you all,” he said. “If you are having these issues, get in touch with me.”
Coon said the department is working on addressing the alleged image problem in Long Reach.
Ball said, “While crime statistics are down we still have some work to do…That’s why we have these meetings.”
After the meeting, a contingent from the Heatherstone Condo Association expressed satisfaction with the police department.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” said Rick Colom. “We call the police a lot—even for the slightest disturbance. They do respond pretty quickly.”
Joan Michaelson added that her association has worked effectively with police in the past.
“They do the best they can with what they’ve got,” Michaelson said. “Years ago we were living in hell. There were gangs of kids…Drug deals being done out in the open...We don’t have that anymore.”
Editor's Note: This story originally ran Aug. 6.