Back to the beat: Police begin community program Eastern District to use 24 officers

February 25, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Baltimore City Police DepartmentStaff Writer

Community policing, a strategy in which officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods to assist residents and solve problems, debuts today in the Eastern District, one of Baltimore's most crime-ridden areas.

Twenty-four neighborhood services officers will begin foot patrols in the district in an effort to build closer relationships with the communities they serve and focus more on preventing crime than on reacting to it.

Community policing also aims to build public confidence in the police, alleviate citizens' fears and free other officers to handle major crimes.

"When you improve public confidence, you break down the fear that exists in the communities," Maj. Alvin A. Winkler, commander of the Eastern District, said yesterday. "Their voices will be heard, but only if we work together."

"I think it will work," Major Winkler said of community policing. "But we can't do it alone. It will only happen if we all [the police and community] work together."

The Eastern District's Community Policing Program will kick off with a noon luncheon at the station house, attended by community leaders and representatives of other city agencies.

It will be five years before the community policing program will be fully implemented in the eight other police districts under a schedule laid out by Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods.

The Eastern District was chosen to initiate the program because it's "one of the toughest districts," a police official candidly remarked. "In terms of violent crimes, it is a crime-riddled district."

There were 74 slayings last year in the district, second only to the Western District, where 86 murders were reported. Citywide, there were 335 murders last year, the highest in Baltimore's history.

Eastern District officers last year also responded to 81 rapes, 1,227 aggravated assaults, 1,353 robberies, 1,379 burglaries, 2,917 larcenies and 505 auto thefts.

Most of the violence in the district was drug-related, police said.

In addition, officers were burdened with many less serious calls for service and assistance. The majority of these calls came through the 911 emergency system, and some of them were for noisy neighbors or broken water mains and other problems that should have been handled by other city agencies.

Community policing is expected to ease the burden on the 911 system.

"We can't continue to be all things to everyone," Major Winkler said. "We seem to always be the in-basket."

Major Winkler said all of the 200 officers assigned to the Eastern District have undergone a week's training in community policing, but only 24 of them will actually be assigned as neighborhood services officers in the 20 communities in the district.

Because of the small size of some of the communities, police officials have realigned the district into 12 foot patrol areas.

Two neighborhood services officers will be assigned to each patrol area. One will work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the other from 4 p.m. to midnight.

During the first month of operation, officers, armed with questionnaires, will talk to residents, business people and community leaders to help identify problems in the patrol areas.

"We want to know what the people think we can do to make the quality of life better in their neighborhood," Major Winkler said.

Once community profiles have been completed, he said, police can return to the communities and "give them the information and say, 'These are the problems [that need to be addressed].' "

Officers assigned to the community will carry pagers so that residents can contact them directly if needed.

It is hoped that residents will call the neighborhood services officers for minor complaints, allowing the other district officers to concentrate on more urgent, serious matters, police officials said.

1992 BALTIMORE CITY POLICE CRIME STATISTICS

District... ... Murder... ... Rape... ... Assault

Western... ... ... 86... ... ..108... ... . 1,322

Eastern... ... ... 74... ... . .81... ... . 1,227

Southwestern... ... 39... ... . 81... ... ... 791

Central... ... ... 34... ... .. 67... ... ... 886

Northwestern... ... 31... ... .103... ... . 1,026

Northern... ... ... 23... ... . 69... ... ... 654

Northeastern... ... 17... ... . 84... ... ... 744

Southern... ... ... 16... ... . 68... ... ... 856

Southeastern... ... 15... ... . 88... ... ... 946

Total... ... ... . 335... ... .749... ... . 8,452

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