Hoping an increased police presence will help to reduce crime in the Gay Street and Middle East areas, the Baltimore Police Department opened a Community Policing Office in the 1600 block of E. Chase St. yesterday.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods, joined by police and elected officials, opened the office in a two-story townhouse at the Clay Court Apartments in East Baltimore. At the new Community Policing Office, foot patrol officers assigned out of the Eastern District will be able to talk privately with area residents and answer complaints and calls.
Maj. Alvin Winkler, the Eastern District commander, acknowledging the crime and drug dealing in the Gay Street and Middle East areas, said the Community Policing Office will help residents feel secure.
"There's a need here," Major Winkler said. "Community policing is definitely the philosophy of the future."
Community policing, which debuted in the crime-ridden Eastern District in February, is a program in which officers are assigned to foot patrols in neighborhoods to strengthen relationships with residents and help solve problems. The aim of the program is to prevent crime rather than react to it.
Some forms of community policing -- such as bike patrols in the Northern, Northeastern, Northwestern and Central districts -- have been established in other sections of the city. Two community policing offices are located in Northeast Baltimore.
But it will be five years before the program is fully implemented in the eight other districts under a schedule devised by Mr. Woods.
At the Clay Court office, which is being donated by the apartment complex, resident volunteers will help staff the office from noon to 4 p.m. five days a week. The volunteers have been trained in problem solving and complaint referral procedures.
Area residents also hope to start a Neighborhood Citizens Patrol in November.
Sharon Porter, 29, who has lived in Clay Court for a year, feels drug dealers will be more wary operating in an area with a Community Policing Office.
"If they [drug dealers] see these blue uniforms, it will keep them away from here," Ms. Porter said.