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Residents want streetlights in neighborhood

July 15, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

heatherk@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - Residents are petitioning the Washington County Commissioners for the addition of 27 streetlights to the Greenberry Hills neighborhood near Valley Mall to cut down on crime in the area, Neighborhood Watch President Benjamin Chlebnikow said.

The unlighted Greenberry Hills is a common refuge for fleeing criminals because of its darkness and proximity to the mall and Interstate 81, Chlebnikow said. He said he knows police are searching for someone when helicopter spotlights sweep the neighborhood.

"This is the first place they run for because it's nice and dark," he said.

Residents have had problems with car stereo thefts and graffiti on garages near the railroad tracks, Chlebnikow said.

County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Holsinger said the incidents do not constitute a significant crime problem, but said the area's relative safety is helped by the Neighborhood Watch's active vehicle and foot patrols, and that lighting is an important step in improving and maintaining safety.

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"Lighting in any form is a proven crime prevention tool, and really the value of it is so great that it becomes one of the least expensive methods," Holsinger said. "It removes the cloak of darkness from the community."

The lights would cost each of the area's 368 homeowners an estimated $38.25 for the first year, including installation costs, and about $9.68 for operation each year thereafter, Chlebnikow said.

Existing electrical poles could be used for 16 of the lights, and the group is recommending the installation of 11 additional poles, Chlebnikow said. The lights would operate from dusk to dawn and all would be on public thoroughfares, as required by Maryland code. If residents found the lights were shining into their living rooms, Allegheny Power would install partial internal shades at no cost, according to a question and answer sheet circulating with the petition.

Neighborhood Watch volunteers are attempting to visit each homeowner to discuss the details of the proposal before submitting the petition to the commissioners. So far, they've talked to about half, and the majority of those have been supportive, Chlebnikow said.

"We've gotten a very good reception," he said. "A lot of people were amazed (the cost) was so small a figure."

Residents also were encouraged by the idea that the lights could reduce speeding in the area and help drivers to see intersections, Chlebnikow said.

A few residents, mainly retirees living on limited budgets, were opposed to the added cost. Chlebnikow said he is sympathetic to those residents, but thinks the overall benefit to the community is worth the cost.

"I talked to one resident who couldn't wait to sign and said her mother and father don't want to come visit her in the evening because it's too dark," Chlebnikow said.

Chlebnikow expects volunteers to have finished meeting with homeowners by Labor Day, when Neighborhood Watch members will compile the signatures and submit the proposal and petition to the commissioners, who will hold a public hearing before deciding whether to install the lights.

Residents may request additional information by writing to Greenberry Hills Neighborhood Watch, P.O. Box 744, Funkstown, MD 21734 or calling 301-791-6590.

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