A barrage of phone calls to a new police hot line over the past few days proves to Sgt. Michael Feeney that his hunch was right.
Plenty of people in areas policed by the Northern District Station have information about drug-related crimes, he had surmised, but have been afraid to divulge what they knew or didn't know where to turn.
"We know there's a lot more going on than what's being reported through normal channels," Sergeant Feeney said. "People out there have the answers to a lot of our crimes and for whatever reason would not come forward."
Neighbors often see what's going on, but "neighbors often don't jTC call because they're afraid of retaliation," he said.
Sergeant Feeney, head of the district's tactical narcotics team, opened the phone line about a month ago as an alternative to a countywide hot line that connects to the central narcotics unit.
He reasoned that North County residents would feel more comfortable talking to or leaving a message for someone in their own area, knowing they could remain anonymous.
"We're hoping this will be more of a personal touch, having someone in their immediate area instead of 10 or 15 miles away," he said. "People often make references to businesses or neighborhoods."
The hot line is one resource in a trend toward community policing, Sergeant Feeney said. And it seems to be working.
"The phone has been ringing off the hook," since the number, 222-6139, was first published, he said.
All of the callers have left information about drug-related crimes, including several good leads and a tip that prompted police to act on a case, Sergeant Feeney said.
He is certain some of the information will lead to arrests.
The Northern District -- Brooklyn Park, Linthicum, Ferndale and North Glen Burnie, above Route 100 -- is the most heavily populated and most commercial of the county's police districts. It's the first of four districts to open a local drug hot line.
Calls go directly to the narcotics team's office and will be taken by an answering machine or by narcotics officers.
Sergeant Feeney asks that callers keep their messages brief and to the point, giving all the major details of the event.
He asks that they leave their name and number, if they feel comfortable doing so, to help police with information the caller may not have made clear.
Police will refer calls about other areas to the proper district, Sergeant Feeney said.
Police set up the line primarily to take information about drug-related crimes, but they will refer calls about violent or property crimes to those departments, he said.