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Safer neighborhood celebrates

Watch group reduces crime at Halfway Manor Apartments

Watch group reduces crime at Halfway Manor Apartments

August 01, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HALFWAY - Just eight months ago, her neighborhood was a very different place.

There were loud noises late at night, unsupervised children wandering through the apartment complex, vandalism and crime.

Now, Cristy Breeden says Halfway Manor Apartments is "a lot better."

It's a quiet, safe neighborhood for her and her two children.

Breeden said the turnaround in the 100-unit low-income complex has a lot to do with the establishment of a neighborhood watch program.

About 1,000 residents, neighbors and community members gathered Tuesday at Halfway Manor Apartments to celebrate the program's success.

"We are raising awareness that Halfway Manor is participating in neighborhood watch," said Robin Hunter, liaison for group.

She said the neighborhood watch group formed in April, and about 12 people participate. She said the group is helping make the neighborhood safer by patrolling at night, and it also hopes to promote safer ways of living for residents.

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"That's vital for a good neighborhood to become a great neighborhood," Hunter said. "It's learning better behavior."

The event Tuesday included door prizes, community groups, employers, food and children's activities. Local officials and law enforcement personnel were there to support the community.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said crime has dropped significantly in Halfway Manor. Before the neighborhood watch formed, deputies responded to more incidents in the neighborhood, he said, including domestic violence, disorderly conduct, loud noises and drug crimes.

He called the partnership between the neighborhood watch, the apartment complex management and the Sheriff's Office a "success."

Last week, Mullendore said, deputies stopped a vehicle near Halfway Manor, and the driver got out of the car and ran into the neighborhood. When deputies were searching for the man, some Halfway Manor residents told them they had seen him, and the man was eventually found.

"I'm really pleased with the turnaround," he said. "And I think this will continue for years to come."

Maryland State Police and county officials were at the event, along with representatives from state officials.

"I'm hearing good things that are happening here," County Commissioners President F. John Barr said.

The Washington County Commissioners have backed a rehabilitation project at Halfway Manor with a letter of support. Work on the apartments' kitchens, bathrooms and floors will be included, and construction could begin in February. The letter of support was required for the application for state bonds for the project, officials have said.

Commissioners first required a security assessment for issuing the letter of support for the rehabilitation project.

Halfway Manor Apartments Site Manager Annette Hilton said the neighborhood watch group has had a positive effect on the community, not only deterring criminal activity at the complex, but also helping organize community events. She said in her three years working at Halfway Manor, Tuesday's celebration was the first gathering of its kind in the neighborhood.

Jennifer Hernandez, 16, has lived at Halfway Manor with her family since 1996, and said she used to hear about crimes in the neighborhood. The Williamsport High School junior said now she sees neighborhood watch volunteers patrolling in pairs after dark.

"We're not about policing our neighborhood," Hunter said. "We're about encouraging our neighborhood to grow. It's giving pride to the community where you live. We're making this a place where people want to come and live."

Erin McAfee, 26, lives at Halfway Manor with her boyfriend and three children, and said she likes that the neighborhood watch group is out each night.

"(The neighborhood) is much better now," she said.

Hunter said the group focuses on Halfway Manor but is looking to expand into the surrounding community.

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