Police major is hired to run special patrols BALTIMORE CITY

December 15, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Baltimore City Police Department via Downtown Partnership of BaltimoreStaff Writer

Baltimore Police Maj. Frank A. Russo, commander of the Central District, will be the new public safety director for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, a quasi-public group administering additional sanitation and security services in the central business district.

Major Russo, a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, will oversee a crew of 35 uniformed, radio-equipped "public safety guides" downtown -- the security element of the so-called "crime and grime" patrols being established in a special downtown tax district and expected to be deployed in mid-February.

The group's patrols will be funded out of the $1.7 million expected to be generated from a special tax surcharge levied on commercial property owners in the 98-block downtown management district.

"Through my position with the Police Department I've been involved with the Baltimore renaissance since the opening of Harborplace" in 1980, the 45-year-old Major Russo said in a prepared statement announcing his appointment yesterday. "Now I'm looking forward to being part of the next step in the downtown renaissance -- a more welcoming downtown for everyone."

Major Russo, a Glen Burnie resident, will start full time in the new position after the first of the year, said Laurie B. Schwartz, president of the Downtown Partnership, which oversees operations in the district.Major Russo will be assisted by a deputy director of public safety, Everett D. E. Scruggs, 35, a former Army captain who started Dec. 4 with the Downtown Partnership.

Mr. Scruggs, a Morgan State University alumnus with a graduate-level background in marketing and fiscal management, resides in Landover but is expected to move to Baltimore, Ms. Schwartz said.

Maintaining that Downtown Partnership employees are not public workers -- despite the fact that tax money is used to pay them -- Ms. Schwartz would not reveal the salaries of the two men.

Each public safety guide will patrol a six- to eight-block beat in the area bounded generally by Pratt, Centre and Greene Streets and The Fallsway. Guides will be on duty seven days a week, generally between 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., though their working hours will be flexible, Ms. Schwartz said.

Their schedules will be tailored to fit times of the city's special events, conventions and downtown retail establishments' hours of operation.

The unarmed public safety guides will serve as additional "eyes and ears" for the Police Department by reporting suspicious behavior by radio and in an effort to reduce police response time, Ms. Schwartz said.

"The public safety guides will not act as security guards or police officers, but as communicators passing information on to the police," Major Russo said. "Their very presence on the street will reduce the opportunity for crime."

The guides also will assist visitors with directions and information about tourist spots and city events.

In addition to being patrolled by public safety guides, the district will be patrolled by 28 sanitation workers to supplement city services, including sweeping sidewalks, removing graffiti, weeding tree boxes, shoveling snow and cleaning alleys.

The Downtown Partnership has a budget of about $2 million a year, including $1.7 million from the tax surcharge, which is calculated on the downtown commercial properties at a rate of 23 cents per $100 of assessed value. The rest of the budget comes from private donations and contributions from tax-exempt properties within the district.

1991-1992 CRIME IN DOWNTOWN DISTRICT

Crime against persons.. ..1991.. ..1992.. ..chg... ..% chg.

Homicide.. .. .. .. .. .. .3.. .. ..1.. .. .-2.. .. ..-66.6

Rape.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..11.. .. .10.. ...-1.. .. ...-9.0

Robbery.. .. .. .. .. .. .510.. .. 455.. .. -55.. .. .-10.7

Aggravated assault.. .. ..108.. ...138.. .. +30.. .. .+27.7

Crime against property

Burglary.. .. .. .. .. ...319.. .. 355.. .. +36.. .. .+11.2

Larceny.. .. .. .. .. ...3,177.. .3,203.. ..+26.. .. ...+.8

Automobile theft.. .. .. .165.. ...199.. .. +34.. .. .+20.0

Totals

Crime against persons.. ..632.. ...604.. .. .-28.. .. .-4.4

Crime against property.. 3,661.. .3,757.. ...+96.. .. .+2.6

All crime.. .. .. .. .. .4,293.. .4,360.. ...+67.. .. .+1.5

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