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March 24, 2008

How-to Monday: Schools and neighborhood safety


Photo courtesy of Stock.XCHNG

What do you want to know about a neighborhood before you sign a sales contract or apartment lease? Lots of things, probably -- but safety and schools top the list if you're like most people.

You'll need to do your own research: The federal Fair Housing Act prevents real estate agents from giving you information about school quality or other factors that boil down to characterizing a neighborhood.

"Realtors refer anyone who is interested in what goes on in the schools to the Board of Education," said Debbie Hager, director of communications for the Maryland Association of Realtors. "The Realtor really needs to remain totally impartial."

The Internet makes it easier than ever to start your research, though it's not the end-all and be-all.

To learn more about reported crimes in your area:

Anne Arundel County lets you look up crime stats near you -- or near the address of your choosing -- HERE. You can also put in an address and get general information, such as trash pickup times.

The Baltimore City Police Department has an interactive map HERE.

The Baltimore County Police Department keeps statistics and an interactive map HERE.

The Carroll County Sheriff's Office suggests that people seeking information about neighborhood crime call the office's public information officer, 410-386-2759. Similarly, the Harford County Sheriff's Office suggests calling its crime analysis unit, 410-836-5402.

The Howard County Police Department spits out reports about crime near the address of your choosing, though be warned that the stats are from 2006. Click HERE. (UPDATE in 2011: The data's more up-to-date now.)

To learn more about local public school test scores, go to the Maryland State Department of Education's Maryland Report Card site HERE. You can see scores for the Maryland School Assessment (MSA), the Alternate Maryland School Assessment (ALT-MSA), and the High School Assessments (HSA) -- they're summed up statewide, by county and by school. You can compare schools with other schools, and you can also look at the Adequate Yearly Progress reports.

But that's just the beginning. Crime stats and test scores won't necessarily tell you if you'll be comfortable living in the neighborhood and/or happy with the local schools. So visit -- and talk to neighbors and parents about what they think.

You can find other sources of information, too. The state's sex offender registry. The Sun's education blog, Crime Beat blog and homicide map. Another homicide map -- tracking a larger area -- on the blog A collection of crime information on the Baltimore Crime blog.

Have other sites or offline sources of information you like? Please share.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 4:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: How-to Mondays


The Dagger has a section devoted to education news and opinion for mostly Harford County. The Dagger's School Yard

Everything you could possibly want to know about the people who live in the baltimore neighborhood of interest.


The US Department of Justice has released a report that states the growth of criminal gangs is increasing in all socio economic areas of the country, . SERAPH who provides school safety consulting to over 20,000 schools in the U.S. has observed a dramatic increase in gang recruitment in suburban schools.

Ron Holvey, Gang Interdiction Special Consultant for SERAPH explains the problem, “School officials have been caught off guard by the rise of gangs in suburban areas. Straight Edge, Juggalos, Crips and Bloods have all been recruiting juveniles in these areas of the country.”


A new study by the PERF [ ], shows top three crime trends in the U.S. are:

1. Criminal gangs
2. Juvenile crime
3. Impulsive violence

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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