Changes to police patrols in Crofton -- making county police officers the first to respond in an emergency rather than the local force --will improve service, Town Manager Jordan Harding said last week.
The changes are not a step toward disbanding the town's force, as feared by some residents, he said, adding that the changes will give Crofton officers more time to patrol high crime areas.
"This is not to be interpreted in any way as a reduction in the level of service to the Crofton people," Harding said.
For years, Crofton officials had complained that the planned community, bounded by Routes 3, 450 and 424, was not getting the same police protection as other areas in the county, though its residents pay the same countytaxes.
The five-member Crofton police force, which costs the special tax district $250,000 a year to run, was supposed to supplement county protection, not replace it.
Now, with county police realigning their beat structure, county officers will pay more frequent visits to Crofton.
The change also will mean that Crofton officers willno longer be on "first call." Under the new system, scheduled to go into effect Friday, all calls from Crofton will go to a county officer and county police usually will be the first to respond to emergencies.
The call will be transferred to a Crofton officer only if the nearestcounty officer is busy or too far away to respond promptly.
Under the current system, if a person in Crofton dials 911 in an emergency, the county will dispatch a Crofton officer. If none is available or working, a county officer will get the call.
Crofton PoliceChief Deborah Bogush said the new system will not slow down responsetime.
Harding said it was necessary to let the county take first calls to maintain consistency.
"We always said we were getting theshort end on police protection," he said. "The county agreed with us. Now they are going to give us protection. And like everywhere else in the county, they are on first call."
Harding said the new system will allow Crofton officers to concentrate on speeders -- a constant problem in the tax district, where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour -- and conduct surveillance in areas known for vandalism, such as parks and golf courses.
The plans for additional county patrols will make it unnecessary for Crofton to hire an extra officer, as recommended by a county police audit several months ago.
The system also will allow Bogush to spend more time handling administrative matters instead of patrolling the streets, Harding said.