Saturday, December 10, 2005

I say sub shop, you say hot spot

A local late night eatery is getting an earful from some busy bodies at the Hickory Ridge Village Board.

Over the past three years, Howard County police have been called 143 times to the parking lot of Arirang Hill Cheese Steak Shop, in Hickory Ridge, for alleged crimes ranging from drug possession and thefts to disorderly conduct and assaults, according to police statistics.

Members of the Hickory Ridge Village Board say those numbers mean the shop's parking lot is a haven for criminals and that the store should be closed...

...(t)he board fired the first salvo in a Nov. 23 letter it wrote to the manager and owner of the Trellis Center in the 10700 block of Hickory Ridge Road, which houses the sub shop, complaining of crime in the shop's parking lot.

Board members wrote that the shop's 3 a.m. closing attracts young men to the lot late at night, leading to criminal activity. They asked the property's manager, David Shaffer, and its owner, Alperstein Investments of Potomac, to see that the shop be "shut down as soon as possible" or that "its contract should be allowed to expire and should not be renewed."

Okay, maybe it's unfair to call the village board members "busy bodies." After all, they're just trying to control crime in their neighborhood, which is understandable and the right thing to do.

But the heavy-handed approach they've decided to take--going so far as to call on the shopping center's owner to close the establishment--won't win them my support.

If there are problems with crime at this location, which apparently there are, the police should handle it; they should increase patrols, put some undercover officers on the scene, or something else along these lines.

And, maybe, the police department is already on top of this situation. Apparently, the 143 calls over three years--a number that certainly points to a problem--is a little misleading.
[The shop's owner Kovach] Sim pointed out that crime has gone down at the Trellis Center in recent years. He presented documents at the board meeting indicating that police were called to the center 110 times in 2001, but only 27 times so far this year.
Only 27 calls this year, eh? That means that there were 116 calls over the two previous years, 2003 and 2004, with an average of 58 calls per year. This, I would say, points to a downward trend.

I'm not supporting crime with this post, I'm opposing the abuse of power, in this case on the part of the village board, which I think has egregiously overstepped its role in calling for the closure of this shop. It should be working more closely with the police to develop crime prevention strategies (the article did not mention if the police department has a stance on this issue, nor did it mention if the village board has attempted to work through them).

At least their hearts are in the right place.

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