Debate continues on alternative policing
Some still in favor of recruiting motorcycle clubs to patrol problem areas
Cliff O’Connell, owner of Cliff’s Hi-Tech, proposed on his Facebook page last month that the community might want to seek the help of motorcycle clubs to keep riff-raff who may sell drugs away.
The post read: “Just a thought. Wonder if some of the motorcycle clubs would want to help with these thugs trying to control the corners in our communities. I’m sure the residents would love it and donate to the club. [...] I would be glad to meet with any of them and discuss this.I also will be the first to donate. Please private message me or call [me] Monday thru Friday.”
O’Connell’s words have since been met with a myriad of responses from both in support of his idea and those who are appalled by this very proposition.
Councilman Todd Crandell (7th District) is one of those in strong opposition to this veritable vigilantism. After O’Connell posted the above Facebook message, Crandell released a video in response.
In the video, Crandell asserted that he could not, in any way, support motorcycle clubs conducting police activity. He stated, “it’s simply a bad idea. Having untrained, unvetted, and unlicensed people conducting law enforcement activities in our neighborhoods simply will not work. The risks are too great.”
Crandell, while dismissing the idea as a danger to the community with a possibility of “the breakdown of law and order,” also stated in his video response that he understood that this idea is a “symptom of desperation.”
“I have not, and I will not, sit idly by,” said Crandell, before explaining what he was prepared to do to begin to fix the situation that led community members to be so desperate for relief that they are turning to local bike clubs to maintain order on their streets.
Crandell plans to renew his request to Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger to enforce existing state law allowing landlords to evict anyone convicted of dealing drugs.
He is also reportedly in talks with the Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan to advocate for more uniformed officers and narcotics officers in Dundalk and Essex.
According to Crandell, these two precincts have the largest volume of calls. “The need is great,” Crandell said. “We need more help.”
The councilman ended his video address by reminding the community that progress has been made, despite how glaring these issues at the forefront seem to be. After this, Crandell implores that the people of the district must not make rash decisions to put those things at risk.
“We will not now or ever condone or permit the behaviors that have destroyed Baltimore City,” Crandell insisted. “The only way that we can accomplish getting our voices heard in Towson is through that reasoned advocacy that I spoke of earlier. We need to operate within the boundaries of law and order and I hope you can join me in this effort.”
The video had since been removed from both the Councilman’s website and Facebook as of earlier this week.
“Todd Crandell has said that he doesn’t support the idea, which I understand. I like the guy and I sup- port him; we just happen to not agree on this one,” O’Connell said in an interview last week.
In this same interview, O’Connell said he does not want motorcycle clubs conducting police activity, he only wants them to “show their presence” on certain street corners where crime might be more likely. “Not the Hell’s Angels, more like the Guardian Angels,” he said.
“The residents loved it. They were offering to cook food for the bikers or to let them use the bathrooms in their homes and even offering to donate money to their clubs,” O’Connell said. “Crime isn’t getting any better and we don’t have enough police officers or detectives to stop the magnitude of crimes, and COP can’t do this, it puts residents in danger. They’re afraid to call the cops.”
Citizens on Patrol, or COP, is a group of community volunteers who ride around their neighborhoods to work as surveillance and call the police if they see anything sketchy.
“COP worked back in the day when it was just kids doing mean things to each other, but now they’re drug dealers and people are afraid,” O’Connell explained.