Other districts weigh similar patrols


March 02, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

It doesn't figure to become a segment on Fox Television's reality-based "COPS," but it was fairly typical of the first official day on the job for the Downtown Partnership's ballyhooed Public Safety Guides:

Amid yesterday's afternoon rush hour, Scott Markusch's car conked out in the middle of Charles Street, near the intersection with Baltimore Street.

Two guides sprang into action, pushing the car into the right-hand lane before calling for help.

"They're trying, I know they're trying," said Mr. Markusch. "I want to get a jump and go."

None of the 35 guides on the street yesterday had occasion to radio for police assistance, said Frank Russo, public safety director for the Downtown Partnership.

Nonetheless, the visible presence of the guides in their snappy black-and-purple uniforms was welcomed by workers and visitors.

"It's wonderful. It's something you need down here," said Edna Smith, a housekeeping supervisor at the Tremont Hotel.

"I think it's great. And I like those uniforms," added Jim Fowler, an employee of a downtown bank.

The guides were equally upbeat.

"It was fun. Basically, everyone was just congratulating us on our uniforms and telling us how good we looked," said Nikki Edwards.

Carl Jamison said he came upon a homeless man lying on the sidewalk as he made his rounds along Eutaw Street.

"I introduced myself and said, 'Would you like some help?' " Mr. Jamison said. "He said, 'What do you mean?' " Whereupon Mr. Jamison handed him a "Street Card," which lists food, shelter and health services for the homeless.

"He thanked me for it and got up and walked away," the guide said.

Yesterday, the Downtown Partnership officially kicked off its effort to attract tourists and residents to a safer, cleaner shopping area with a rousing ceremony at the Mechanic Theatre. It included a one-act play by the guides and more than two dozen Clean Sweep Ambassadors, who provide sanitation services.

At one point, the workers were joined on stage by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and others.

The partnership, made up of downtown property and business owners, is financing the program with $1.7 million from a special surcharge on about 1,000 downtown property owners.

Last year, there were 4,360 incidents of crime against people and property in the downtown district, police statistics show.

The guides generally will operate from noon to 8 p.m.

The idea of hiring extra security to patrol the city's neighborhoods is gaining popularity.

The region comprising Mount Vernon and Belvedere, just north of downtown, is the latest area to seriously contemplate establishing a special taxing district, joining South Charles Village and Bolton Hill.

A recently released survey found that 78 percent of property owners in Mount Vernon and Belvedere favored creation of such a district.

The survey, by the University of Baltimore's Schaefer Center for Public Policy, was based on responses of about one-third of the area's 1,342 property owners.

It was funded by the Downtown Partnership and the Mount Vernon Belvedere Improvement Association.

"During the day, grime is the issue. At night, crime is the issue," said Denise Cellinese, president of the association, who owns a home and business in the area.

Special benefits districts require the approval of the General Assembly and the City Council.

There is legislation pending in the legislature to create a special district for South Charles Village.

A separate bill would allow neighborhoods to petition the City Council without prior approval of the General Assembly.

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