Brown and Yowan seek four more police officers

February 23, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Westminster's mayor and the chairman of the City Council's police committee independently came to the same conclusion yesterday -- that the city needs four additional police officers -- but they differed on the seriousness of the city's crime problem.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown raised the possibility of more drug-related shootings in the city if officials don't act now on a crime and drug action proposal he presented to the City Council last night.

Councilman Kenneth A. Yowan acknowledged that Westminster has some problem areas -- robberies, break-ins and drugs -- but said statistics show the crime rate has been stable over the past five years.

Mr. Yowan said the Jan. 28 fatal shooting of Gregory L. Howard on Center Street was "tragic," but added that he doesn't want residents to panic.

The probability of being a victim of crime in Westminster is no greater now than it was five years ago, he said.

Mr. Yowan, in his annual "State of the Police Department" report to the council, said population increases would justify two additional officers to maintain the ratio of one officer to 430 citizens.

But Mr. Yowan recommended that council hire another two officers beyond that because commercial and industrial development is taking about 25 percent of police time for patrols and calls.

Mr. Brown said he wants to be sure Westminster doesn't become a city where children become victims in drug-related shootouts.

"The risk we have is that we will become a [drug] turf that is profitable to be fought over," the mayor said.

Major points in the mayor's proposal are:

* Hiring four police officers. They would bring the force to 29 officers if the council agrees to add $125,000 to the 1993-94 budget to cover salary, fringe benefits and equipment. Mr. Brown said his plans include adding two uniformed patrol officers, a criminal investigator and one full-time drug enforcement officer, the city's first.

* Increasing foot patrols. Chief Sam Leppo said officers currently walk 1 1/2 to two hours on each shift, depending on the pressure of calls, and increases would depend on additional staffing.

* Revitalizing neighborhood crime watches. Mr. Brown said he plans to talk with neighborhood representatives at his next quarterly meeting with local homeowners' associations March 15.

* Asking Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. whether the city has the legal authority to designate playgrounds as drug-free zones, to provide stiffer penalties for people caught dealing drugs there.

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