Worried Bolton Hill talks of hiring armed guards Off-duty officers would patrol daily

December 09, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

Some residents in Baltimore's affluent Bolton Hill community are actively discussing hiring armed off-duty city police officers to patrol the streets around their townhouses and apartment buildings.

Brooks Bosley, secretary with the Mount Royal Improvement Association, said the private guards will be hired if enough money can be collected to pay for the service. He said the plan calls for hiring off-duty city police officers -- who would be armed with their service weapons and would have the power of arrest -- and paying them through a collective fund.

The cost of providing the service has not been determined, Mr. Bosley added.

Proponents of the plan have been getting advice from a group of Guilford residents, Mr. Bosley said. Guilford, an affluent North Baltimore community, is already protected by private guards.

"The folks in Guilford have since September had a night patrol of off-duty city officers, and it has worked quite well," said Mr. Bosley, a Baltimore banker.

Unlike Guilford, the guards in Bolton Hill would work during the day. Mr. Bosley said most of Bolton Hill's burglaries occur during the day while residents are at work.

Bolton Hill is bounded by Dolphin Street, Eutaw Place, North Avenue, Mount Royal Avenue and Howard Street.

"Bolton Hill has a reputation for rising to the occasion," Mr. Bosley said. "Because of [city] budget cuts, the police have suffered, and we have to take responsibility for addressing our concerns."

The Bolton Hill plan would place at least one off-duty officer on foot in Bolton Hill with a cellular telephone and a beeper seven days a week, six to eight hours a day. Only residents who pay into the fund would have the officer's beeper number.

Mr. Bosley and other Bolton Hill residents said the private guards would augment the protection already provided by city police and several citizen patrols.

Fear of crime has prompted business owners and residents in other areas of the city to hire private guards or to consider their use.

Mr. Bosley conceded that use of private guards has touched off a philosophical debate.

"Some people say that it's nice that we can afford such a luxury while other neighborhoods can't," he said. "We have no response to that except to say we feel others would do the very same if they could and if they feel threatened."

Last summer, some residents of Little Italy called for armed private guards after that neighborhood was hit by several burglaries and muggings.

Joseph Scalia II, a lawyer and Little Italy resident, yesterday said that the neighborhood's restaurant owners are "balking" at the anti-crime patrol because of liability concerns but that a plan remains under study."

Now, some Mount Vernon residents are calling for the use of private guards to protect that neighborhood.

A special downtown benefits district will have a uniformed security force -- paid for by a surtax on commercial property owners -- after Jan. 1.

The Block -- the adult entertainment district on the 300 and 400 blocks of E. Baltimore St. -- has had uniformed guards, some of whom are armed, patrolling in front of the area's strip clubs and pornography shops for three months.

"The club owners are happy with the results," said Robert Blackburn, owner of Blackburn Investigation and Security. "The criminal element, although still visible, has moved from in front of the clubs to other areas to conduct their business."

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