Police Officer Deborah Ramsey, a community policing officer, spent part of yesterday and Wednesday wielding a broom in a trash-strewn alley in East Baltimore.
The veteran of almost 10 years on the force helped residents of the 1600 block of E. 25th St. clear the alley behind their homes of more than two truckloads of trash that had accumulated over several months.
"I asked the residents what their problems were, and they said trash," Officer Ramsey said. "And I'm here to help them with their problems."
NB Community policing is an experimental program used only in the
Eastern District, one of the most crime-ridden of the city's nine police districts. Officers in the program are assigned to foot patrols in neighborhoods to strengthen relationships with residents and to help solve problems.
Under the program that began in February, the district was realigned into 12 foot patrol areas where officers walk the same beat daily. The focus of the program is on preventing crime rather than reacting to it.
Officer Ramsey said that the purpose of community policing is to respond to the concerns of residents, whether it's drug dealing, traffic problems, lack of streetlights, noise, or, as was the case this week, trash.
"You can call it trashy or what you want," Officer Ramsey said jokingly about her participation in the cleanup. Then turning serious, she said, "But it's getting the community involved, and it's getting the problems solved."
"The main objective [for officers] is not to be people who only receive complaints but to show the community that they can help themselves solve their own problems," said Officer Ramsey. "It's not only me working or only them working. It's working together."
Maj. Alvin Winkler, commander of the Eastern District, said 24 community policing officers walk the 12 patrol areas -- one from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and another from 4 p.m. to midnight.
"Right now, our biggest obstacle remains the fear in the community," Major Winkler said. "Our officers are working on that. A lot of what they do is find solutions to problems. A lot of it is social problems and social work. We're trying to identify any problem that could cause a crime problem."
Officer Ramsey has visited homes in her patrol area just to get acquainted with residents.
"When I go [to a home], I always have to say at first that nothing is wrong and that I'm not here for a problem," Officer Ramsey said. "They just aren't used to seeing a police officer come to their door unless something is wrong.
"I volunteered for this. I like having an impact on people's lives," she said.
Some residents approve.
Shelia Word, 37, who lives in the 1600 block of E. 25th St. with her three children, said she had trouble getting bulk trash removed from the alley until Officer Ramsey was told abut the problem and took action.
"She put everything in motion," Ms. Word said. "And then when it came time to clean up, she was right out there with us. It wasn't like she was supervising. Girlfriend was out there with a broom and rake and getting sweaty."
Ronald Dunlap, also of the 1600 block of E. 25th, said that Officer Ramsey's visit to his home made her more "human."
"She [ Officer Ramsey] came to my house and sat and talked to me for about an hour. She gave me her beeper number," Mr. Dunlap said. "A lot of people are afraid to talk to police, thinking it's something negative. But I feel good about them now."