BUILD gets pledges of police community involvement Deals in place with 4 districts

January 24, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Church and neighborhood leaders from across Baltimore negotiated agreements with commanders of three police districts yesterday to make officers more involved with the communities they protect.

The effort by Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD) is designed to fight crime while creating relationships between police and law-abiding residents of neighborhoods plagued by drugs and violence.

"By the nature of their work, the people the cops see are the people they arrest," said one BUILD leader at a crowded meeting yesterday. "That leads to a perception of a community where everybody is a criminal. We want the police to see people as people and give them the dignity they are due. We want to find a new way to do business."

The new way began Dec. 5 when BUILD reached a deal with Maj. Alvin Winkler of the Eastern District, who agreed to assign officers to specific high-crime areas while involving others in the day-to-day life of east side neighborhoods.

Yesterday, similar agreements were reached with commanders of the Western, Southern and Southwestern districts.

Of five original districts targeted by BUILD, only the Central remains outside of an understanding with the group. Central has a new commander, Maj. Charles Dickens, and residents hoped things would improve as they got to know him better.

"We need police in the community walking around," said Benjamin J. Kimbers, a resident of Reservoir Hill, which is in the Central District.

Complaining to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke that officers spend too much time talking to each other in parking lots while crime rages at the corner of Brookfield Avenue and Whitelock Streets, Mr. Kimbers said: "Four patrol officers were promised to us on Dec. 5, and to date, we have not had those officers identified to us. Promises have gone unkept."

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, a community meeting will be conducted with Central police at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, 2110 Madison Avenue.

"I think police work in the Central is really geared to providing protection to downtown and [Camden Yards] stadium," said the Rev. Curtis Jones, pastor of the church. "It is the least community-oriented district of all. There has to be a change in philosophy from property to people."

Yesterday's agreement with Maj. Marvin Spiwak of the Southern -- in which patrols in and around the Cherry Hill shopping center and the corner of Victoria Road and Joseph Avenue will be increased -- was a picnic compared with the row he had with residents Dec. 5.

"At that meeting, BUILD tried to bulldoze me, and I don't bulldoze very easily," Major Spiwak said. "But after that meeting, we sat down and reached mutual areas of concern."

"Cherry Hill has to organize itself as well," the major said. "It needs a viable Citizens on Patrol program like the Northwest [District], a viable Block Watch program where everybody participates. The hoodlums all have mothers and fathers, and at some point, somebody in the community has to drag the hoodlum by the ear and make them accountable. The community has to take back the streets. That's part of community policing, too."

The police commanders' willingness to work with citizens to make neighborhoods safe is attributed to direct orders from Mayor Schmoke and Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods, who are committed to the concept of community policing.

"Call it political or whatever you want," said Kathleen O'Toole, chief BUILD organizer. "But it's filtering down to the ranks, and we see this as a significant beginning."

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