Downtown Columbia Residents Want Cameras, Safety

Howard County Police recently stepped up security at the apartment complex in Swift Stream Place after a string of robberies were reported in June.


Ghazala Rafique moved into the Columbia Town Center Apartments almost three years ago with her daughter. She thought the neighborhood, compacted into a street circle less than a quarter-mile long, was a nice upscale community close to the mall.

Last year, however, Rafique said she and her daughter got a visit from a police officer, warning them of a television thief who had broken into several of their neighbors' homes. This was the first security problem she said they had encountered at the Columbia Town Center Apartments–the only residential area on Swift Stream Place.

Then in March, a burglar entered Rafique's home while she was away and stole $10,000 worth of her daughter's jewelry, she said.

"The only reason I can think of as to why this happens is that people might think this as a rich area," Rafique said. "We aren't a scared kind of people, but this is a little scary."

This burglary was only one of nine on Swift Stream Place this year, in addition to four robberies and four incidents of arson, according to Howard County Police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn.

But 12 of these incidents have been charged to three separate people, says Llewellyn, suggesting there is nothing exceptional about the neighborhood's crime.

Deangelo Blackstone was charged in since June 6, Richard N. Mojica Jr. was charged in –four of which were on Swift Stream Place–and Lamar Ali Carroll was charged in from January.

"We increased both uniformed and undercover patrols on Swift Stream during the purse snatching robbery incidents," Llewellyn said. "After the arrest was made, we returned to normal patrol operations."

Angie Morgan moved into the apartment complex in mid-July. She says the apartment complex made no mention of the purse-snatching or burglaries during the move-in process.

"I love the area, I love everything. So when I heard about it, I was shocked," Morgan told Patch.

The first time she heard about the crime was after a fire alarm was pulled a couple of weeks ago, and her neighbors told her about the purse-snatcher, who had yet to be apprehended.

"A lot of the neighbors were talking about it, ticked off," Morgan said. "A lot of them have been living here four years, six years, but that was the first we heard about it."

Now that she's aware of the crime, she said she notices marked and unmarked police officers patrolling the area "all the time."

A manager at Columbia Town Center Apartments, which is owned by Atlanta-based Gables Residential, declined to comment about the current security measures at the complex, or whether further measures, like installing video cameras, are in the works.

Rafique says security cameras would be a good idea, and has wondered why they weren't installed in the first place.

"In the parking lot area, there should be cameras, because a lot of times, we are walking around and there are no other people. It's really scary," Rafique said.

Morgan agrees, saying cameras would be a logical deterrent to crime, which her family never encountered until they moved to Columbia from Tampa, FL.

"Cameras, I think should definitely be at every entrance," she said.

As for the rest of downtown Columbia, which is set to see new residential and shopping developments in the next several years, the police department's strategy for keeping people safe in downtown will "evolve" according to the need for protection, says Llewellyn.

"As the growth is phased-in over time, the police department will phase-in operations to meet those demands as needed," Llewellyn said.

For more news on crime in downtown Columbia, follow these links:

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EL August 03, 2012 at 01:37 PM
We lived there 7 or so years ago, and one of the first days in the complex my young boys witnessed a purse snatching. Not sure this is a "new"trend there. And we only lived there for about 6 months.
Justin case January 24, 2013 at 05:06 PM
That's what happens when hocogov brings in inner city thugs to try to give them better opportunity & a fresh start. U can't take the ghetto out of them


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