In an effort to curb speeding and other unsafe driving habits, Howard County police will increase patrols in school zones during the first two weeks of the school year.

The department's annual back-to-school program, dubbed Helping Arriving Students Through Enforcement or H.A.S.T.E., focuses on enforcing speed, seat belt and child safety seat laws on roads surrounding schools. The school year begins Aug. 28.

"We hope that police presence around the schools will send a message to drivers to slow down," acting Police Chief William McMahon said in a statement

Students throughout the region will be walking and driving to and from school and we want to make sure every one of them arrives safely."

Officers will use radar devices and a speed camera to issue warnings to speeders. Photos sent to speeders as part of the effort will not include fines or other penalties, but are intended to raise awareness about safe driving near schools, according to police.

In addition, officers in covert vehicles will follow school buses in order to penalize drivers who fail to stop when a bus is loading or unloading children and has red flashing lights. The fine for violating school bus laws is $550.

- Jennifer Surface

Missing Savage teenager found in northern Virginia

Police in northern Virginia alerted Howard County authorities Aug. 23 that they located a county teen who had been missing since Aug. 21.

Although police are unsure how Howard Davenport McGill, a 16-year-old Savage resident, made his way to Virginia, they believe he was trying to get to a relative's home.

Howard County police said Virginia authorities have provided only "sketchy" details as to how McGill was discovered, but that the teen is in good condition.

McGill's family reported the teen, who police said is autistic, missing the morning of Aug. 21 and believed the boy had walked away from his family's apartment in the 8900 block of River Island Drive in Savage the night of Aug. 20 or early the next morning.

- Jennifer Surface

Columbia man arrested on more robbery charges

A Columbia man who was convicted in March of conspiracy to commit robbery was again arrested on robbery charges Aug. 20 in Columbia.

Devon Dixon, 20, of the 8800 block of Hayshed Lane in Columbia, was arrested shortly after 12:40 p.m. Aug. 20, along with a juvenile male, after police traced the pair to Dixon's residence following a robbery on a nearby street.

Dixon was charged with robbery, second degree assault and possession of drugs with intent to distribute, according to charging documents. The State's Attorneys' office declined to release charges on the juvenile.

The man who was robbed told police he was talking on his cell phone at about 12:40 p.m when a man and a juvenile approached him, assaulted him, took his cell phone and ran to the Hayshed Lane residence, according to charging documents.

Police would not identify the street on which the robbery took place.

Police established a perimeter around Dixon's residence and talked with Dixon and the juvenile, who surrendered without incident, according to a police press release. Police also discovered plastic bags in the residence containing illegal narcotics, according to charging documents.

Dixon was serving a year of supervised probation at the time of the arrest. He pled guilty in March to a charge of conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with an attempted robbery at the Barber King barber shop in the Long Reach Village Center, according to a statement from State's Attorney Timothy McCrone.

An unarmed Dixon was shot at about 1 a.m. on July 17, 2005, when he and another male entered the Barber King ostensibly for a drug deal but with the intent to rob the occupants, McCrone said.

In that case, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Diane Leasure sentenced Dixon to 18 months at the Howard County Detention Center suspending all but 110 days and gave him credit for time served, McCrone said. He was also given one year of supervised probation.

On Aug. 22, Howard County Circuit Judge Neil Axel ordered Dixon to be held on $75,000 bond in the Howard County Detention Center. The next hearing in the case is Sept. 22 in Howard County Circuit Court.

- Mike Santa Rita

Reward increased for vandalism information

Police are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator or perpetrators of a vandalism spree that took place in Clarksville overnight between Aug. 15 and Aug. 16.

Of the approximately 25 incidents of vandalism that mostly hit the River Hill neighborhood of Clarksville, five were classified as hate bias incidents that included spray painted swastikas, racial and anti-semitic slurs, Pfc. Jennifer Reidy said.

The hate bias graffiti was sprayed on cars on Whale Boat Drive and Winter Grain Court, the window of a house on Day Long Circle and street signs on Trotter Road and Great Star Drive, according to a police press release.

Additional vandalism included tires slashed, rocks thrown through windshields, a mailbox spray painted and garden lights removed from a property.

Police had originally offered a $500 reward in the case Aug. 17 but upped the reward to $5,000 Aug. 18 to signal the seriousness with which the police regard the crime, acting Police Chief William McMahon said.

Police are also increasing police patrols in the River Hill neighborhood of Clarksville in marked and unmarked cars, a police press release said.

- Mike Santa Rita

Ellicott City men chargedwith growing marijuana

Police have arrested two Ellicott City men and charged them with growing marijuana plants with intent to distribute the drug in two unrelated cases.

Randy Fox Tennant, 22, of 10049 Fox Den Road, was arrested Aug. 4 at David Force Park on Pebble Beach Drive and charged with manufacturing marijuana with intent to distribute, a police press release said.

David A. Lombardo, 32, of 7939 Brightlight Place, was arrested Aug. 16 near a wooded area close to Route 103 and Route 100 in Ellicott City and was also charged with manufacturing marijuana with intent to distribute, a police press release said.

On Aug. 4 police observed a man at the David Force Park at the location of two marijuana plants. The man watered the plants from a container he had brought in a backpack, according to a press release.

Tennant was arrested shortly afterwards.

On Aug. 16 police observed a man watering 12 marijuana plants in the wooded area near routes 103 and 100 in Ellicott City. The man tried to run from police, the release said.

Lombardo was apprehended shortly afterwards.

Police searched a vehicle where they located a handgun and drug paraphernalia. A search warrant issued at Lombardo's home discovered planters, fertilizer, lamps and ammunition, police said.

David Lombardo posted $25,000 bond Aug. 17. No court date has been set, a court spokesman said. Randy Tennant was released on $7,500 bond Aug. 5. His court date is Oct. 31 in District Court, a court spokesman said.

- Mike Santa Rita

Police looking for snowball stand robber

Howard County police are searching for a suspect in the Aug. 19 armed robbery of a snowball stand in the 1900 block of Woodstock Road, in Ellicott City.

At about 12:45 p.m. Aug. 19, a juvenile male with a stocking pulled over his head approached the stand, brandished a handgun and demanded money, police said.

The juvenile fled on foot down Woodstock Road, towards Baltimore County, with an undisclosed amount of cash.

- Mike Santa Rita