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Survey takes dim view of lighting

Lauren Taylor
04/13/05 - A year after the Greater Towson Committee called attention to a situation that its chairman says discourages safety-conscious shoppers, county officials have completed a survey of lighting conditions downtown.

Bob Latshaw, the GTC's chairman, requested the survey.

According to George Hale, executive director of the county Revenue Authority, which conducted the survey April 1, the data support Latshaw's concerns.

"Towson, in general, is a pretty dark place," said Hale, who also leads the GTC's transportation and parking committee.

"I had the perception that Bob did, that once you got about 100 feet off York Road, Towson gets pretty dark," he continued.

In fact, the lighting on some streets is "minimal," Hale said.

While lighting in Towson's core was as high as 40 foot-candles outside a bank, and at four to eight foot-candles outside Towson Commons, the levels along Allegheny and Chesapeake avenues, where many stores and restaurants are located, registered at a single foot-candle. On several streets, the measurement was zero.

"Hopefully, this will shine some light on the subject," Hale said.

Creating an inviting retail atmosphere in Towson is a primary goal of the GTC, Latshaw wrote in an April 5 letter to County Executive James Smith.

In the letter, Latshaw praised the lighting at Towson Commons, which includes Christmas-style bulbs (sometimes called "fairy lights") in tree branches.

Pennsylvania Avenue near Towson Commons is "one of the most inviting blocks in Towson," Latshaw said, suggesting that lighting in all of downtown Towson could be raised to the same standard.

His own firm, Latshaw Associates, is researching the possibility of lighting trees outside the SunTrust building - on Pennsylvania Avenue, between York Road and Washington Avenue - Latshaw said.

Last year, the GTC also urged businesses to trim trees outide their entrances, in hopes of providing not only better lighting and safety, but higher visibility, he said.

The Department of Public Works, which was scheduled to trim trees in Towson last month, is expected to complete the job shortly, said Andrea Van Arsdale, revitalization director for the Department of Economic Development.

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Murder spurs safety meeting

In response to the murder of a St. Paul's School dean at Towson Town Center, the Towson Business Association sponsored an April 6 meeting on safety-related topics.

Between Oct. 1, 2004, and March 23, 2005, there were 18 burglaries in central Towson „ of which four were at the Towson Town Center „ Capt. Karen Johnson told association members.

There were also 14 robberies in central Towson, including six at the mall, and eight stolen vehicles, one at the mall, Johnson said.

"Towsonwide, we're seeing a decrease in crime," she said, noting a 21 percent decrease in burglaries, an 11 percent decrease in robberies and a 31 percent decrease in auto thefts since last year.

Since the murder, which occurred in a parking garage after, police said, an aborted robbery attempt, police added patrols at the mall and frequently park "ghost cars" (cars without officers) outside the mall as a deterrent, Johnson said.

Uniformed and plain-clothes officers patrol Towson Town Center at all times, with additional officers on the weekends, she said.

Crime in the parking garages the county Revenue Authority manages in Towson has remained at steady levels the past four years, with 12 crimes in the garage on Towsontown Boulevard and 11 crimes in the Chesapeake Avenue garage, Johnson said.

The Revenue Authority manages four garages and three surface lots, plus parking meters in downtown Towson „ more than 4,500 parking spaces total, Hale said.

The garages are generally empty after 7 p.m., although the Chesapeake Avenue garage stays busy until the Towson library closes at 9 p.m., Hale said. Few crimes in the garages have involved violence, he said.

"I think we've got a pretty good record in our parking garages," Hale said.

TBA members also discussed time limits on parking meters, crowds of teenagers in Towson, problems when bars close and revitalization programs.

In a competitive environment, "We don't see the status quo as being OK," said David Iannucci, executive director of the Department of Economic Development.

„ Lauren Taylor



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