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Suspicious vehicle prompts meeting with police

May 16, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

HALFWAY - Parents concerned about a suspicious vehicle seen in their neighborhood and other neighborhoods in Washington County met with police on Friday.

"You have to be the eyes and ears for us," Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Peacock told about 40 parents and 60 children at Halfway Manor Apartments.

On Thursday night, police investigated a report that a man tried to abduct a 7-year-old girl.

A suspicious vehicle with a similar description, a black sport utility vehicle with a handicapped parking sticker, was seen the same night in the Long Meadow area, police said.

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Police said the Halfway report might have been a misunderstanding.

However, residents say they are worried.

"I'm concerned for my kids," said parent Tracy Lynn, who had two young boys in tow.

"It's not a bunch of women being scared. It's what we've seen," said another parent, Stephanie Disert.

Peacock told residents the best way to protect their kids is to keep a closer eye on them.

"A lot of you aren't going to like what I have to say. Much of the responsibility with the safety in the neighborhood lies with the moms and dads here. Kids should not play unattended," Peacock said.

There are a lot of transient people in the neighborhood, which is close to Valley Mall, he said.

Peacock told parents also to remind their children not to talk to strangers or accept food or gifts from strangers.

Kids also shouldn't wear clothes that reveal their name because an abductor could use that information to win the child's trust.

He suggested that parents and children pick a password to use. If someone tells a child that mom or dad sent them, the child can ask for the password.

"If that person doesn't know the password, you should run and scream for help," Peacock told the children.

Peacock said he might try to arrange a day to get fingerprints and photographs from children in the neighborhood.

The meeting was arranged by Kelly Rogers, manager of the subsidized housing complex owned by Maryland Property Group of Baltimore, after residents complained that nothing was being done about crime.

"We're not going to put up with it," said Rogers, who organized a Neighborhood Watch program there two years ago.

But some residents say management doesn't do enough to protect residents.

That touched off a debate about when management should notify residents about criminal activity.

Some residents said they want to know about break-ins and other problems. But Rogers said she has to protect residents' privacy.

That discussion, which ended with parents pulling their children away in disgust, was disappointing to Kevin Simonelli, who has three children who live in Halfway Manor.

"I thought it was going to be about the children," he said, shaking his head.

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