Baltimore Co. takes steps to bolster police protection Hayden says no officers will be laid off

February 03, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, worried that the public thinks crime is out of control, announced yesterday that no police officers will be laid off, that a new recruit class will be hired, and that 35 veteran officers will leave desk jobs for investigative duty.

The announcement calmed fears among police officers who wondered whether theirs might be among the 400 to 500 county jobs eliminated because of the county's budget crisis.

To combat fears about carjackings, Mr. Hayden proposed having volunteer, unarmed county auxiliary police spend more time at area shopping malls. He also wants to bolster the county's crime prevention efforts by using retired officers to speak to community groups. The police also will be allowed to hire 35 civilians to replace the desk officers.

A separate package of five proposals will involve helping students and community groups devise ways of solving their own crime problems.

"We have too long relied on police alone to handle crime," Mr. Hayden said.

Despite Mr. Hayden's proposals, the county's sworn police force will not increase, because of attrition and retirement. The county has 1,426 sworn officers, including 32 recruits due to graduate tonight, said police spokesman Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger. The force has 155 fewer officers than it did two years ago, when authorized strength was 1,581.

L. Timothy Caslin, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, was pleased to hear of Mr. Hayden's decisions, but said the police union "will push to hire more [officers]."

Mr. Hayden, Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan, and county State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor all insist crime is not as bad as people think. However, they realize incidents such as last year's carjacking and murder of Howard County resident Pam Basu, the Randallstown bank robbery in which two tellers were killed, and the seemingly senseless slaying of a popular Catonsville barber and his customer particularly frightened the public.

Mr. Hayden said he realized two months ago that he had to come up with a plan for dealing with the public's perception. He denied being influenced by FOP radio ads that mentioned the county's record homicide rate against a background of screaming and sirens.

In fact, crime was up less than 2 percent during the first nine months of 1992, said Chief Behan. Eleven of the 44 murders last year were stranger-to-stranger killings.

Mrs. O'Connor, known for her office's tough stance on prosecution, said 165 violent repeat offenders caught in Baltimore County are serving 25 years without parole, compared to 70 from the rest of Maryland. Another 120 inmates prosecuted in the county for drug distribution cases are serving no-parole sentences under repeat-offender laws.

Zed Smith, general manager of Westview Mall, said he likes the idea of using uniformed county auxiliary police at the malls, but he also wantsoff-duty police officers, paid by the merchants, to patrol in their county uniforms and carry their county guns and radios.

County Council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, favors the idea; Chief Behan does not.

FIGHTING CRIME

Mr. Hayden's ideas for involving county communities and students in crime- prevention efforts are:

* Creating a student program to be called Students Aiding Friends Everywhere (SAFE). It will be modeled after Students Against Driving Drunk. High school students would be trained in crime prevention strategies they can pass on to others. Time spent teaching elderly homeowners how to prevent burglaries, or running crime education displays at shopping centers can be put toward the 75 hours of community volunteer work required for graduation.

* Eight, invitation-only crime prevention forums that will be held throughout the county on Saturdays from March 6 through Nov. 20. Mr. Hayden will be the host at the forums.

* A one-day conference at Towson State University April 3 featuring workshops on crime prevention and substance abuse.

* A crime prevention grant program to distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 to businesses and citizens groups.

* The appointment of a crime prevention advisory panel to continue searching for new ideas.

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