Calls To Police Can Travel Many Wires Before Reaching Help

September 18, 1991|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

Breaking glass awakens you at 1 a.m.

You see someone breaking into your neighbor's house. You grab thephone, dial 911 and request the police.

If you live within the limits of Westminster, Sykesville, Taneytown, Manchester or Hampstead, town police will likely respond to the call. State police assist if asked.

Carroll's other three towns -- Mount Airy, Union Bridge and New Windsor -- rely on the resident state trooper program.

The five town police departments have their own telephones, which you can call direct. There's a hitch, though.

With the exception of Westminster, if you call after regular town office hours or when the duty officer is out on patrol, you'll get a recording telling you to call 911or the state police barracks, or your call will be forwarded directly to state police.

FOR THE RECORD - A Sept. 18 story, "Calls to police can travel many wires before reaching help," should have said that Mount Airy has call forwarding, not an answering machine.

Calls to 911 are relayed automatically from theEmergency Operations Center to the state police or Westminster police, depending on where the call comes from, said Howard S. "Buddy" Redman Jr., administrator of emergency services. State police then dispatch all calls, except to Westminster.

"We're open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said Cpl. Rick May, public information officer for the Westminster police. "We handle all calls in our jurisdiction."

The Westminster police force has a staff of 30 officers, with dispatchers on duty around the clock.

In Sykesville, Chief Wallace P. Mitchell relies on a town secretary to answer calls 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays when he or his officers are on patrol. After hours, the policeline's answering machine will tell you to call 911 or state police in an emergency.

"The calls are picked up on a recorder, and if it isn't an emergency, they can leave a message," Mitchell said. "If it is an emergency, then we get a radio dispatch from the state police and we respond."

Hampstead and Manchester's police departments alsoare in town halls, but they have their own phone lines, which are not connected to the town office. Callers get a recording if no one is in the police office.

"We have an answering machine that will tellyou to call 911 or the state police at 848-3111," Hampstead Police Chief Kenneth Russell said. "We get all of our radio calls through thestate police."

Neither northeast Carroll community, each with a police chief and two officers, has 24-hour protection. State police have an informal agreement to answer town calls when no town officer ison duty, said 1st Sgt. Stephen C. Reynolds of the state police.

"The town would fall into the patrol area at large, and troopers are aware that no one is in the area at the time," he said.

Average response time within the county for state police is seven to eight minutes, Reynolds said.

To improve town coverage, Manchester expects tohire a third officer next year.

"We'll be pretty well-covered," said David M. Warner, Manchester's project administrator. "We already advise residents to call here first, because it could be a shortcut."

Russell said that his town needs 24-hour protection and that he, too, has requested a third officer for next year.

Taneytown is theonly Carroll municipal police department with call forwarding. Callers will be switched directly to the state police barracks in Westminster if no one is in the office.

"This hasn't completely eradicatedthe concern," City Manager Neal W. Powell said. "There's always roomfor human frailties, and people are bound to get upset if they call and the phone rings and rings."

Of the three towns without their own police department, Mount Airy is the only one with an office for its resident state troopers. When troopers are out of the office, an answering machine automatically forwards calls to the state police barracks.

Citizens in Union Bridge and New Windsor, which share one resident trooper, must call the state police. The trooper works a 40-hour week, split equally between the towns.

Depending on the seriousness of the call, the number to be answered and officer availability, a cruiser will be dispatched as soon as possible, Reynolds said.

County residents also can call the Sheriff's Department, which will respond to calls 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., when officers are on duty.

"If we are called directly, we do respond, we evaluate the situation and investigate it," said Col. Charles Fowler of the Sheriff's Department. "We don't get as many calls as the state police, but we do get a fair number of calls and we do not turn down anybody."

Similarly, in Harford County, which has three incorporated municipalities, theHarford County Sheriff's Department is the main law enforcement agency, along with the state police.

Town police departments can be contacted directly at: Westminster, 848-4646 or 876-3100; Sykesville, 795-0757; Manchester, 239-6900; Hampstead, 239-8954; and Taneytown, 751-1150.

The state police office in Mount Airy can be called directly at 829-0218. The Sheriff's Department is 848-9666 or 876-2440.

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