Police program puts 79 Rosemont residents on lookout for crime

April 07, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore Police Department gained 79 sets of crime-stopping eyes and ears as city residents graduated from the Southwestern District's Citizens' Police Academy during a ceremony yesterday at the Rosemont Towers housing complex.

Graduates of the program -- many of them elderly residents of Rosemont Towers -- gained an appreciation of the work performed by police officers and learned when and how to report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

Rita P. Neale said she would use her newly found knowledge to thwart illegal activities. For example, she will no longer allow pit bull terriers -- dogs bred for ferocity -- to roam the playground in her neighborhood.

"I will refer things like that to the police," said Mrs. Neale, the president of the Northwest Community Action Organization, as she clutched her new certificate from the Citizens Police Academy program.

She said she would spread the word to neighbors who are confused about when to contact police. She said residents are overcoming fears and becoming more eager to help fight crime.

"They're coming out more," Mrs. Neale said. "We've had a tough time around here with drugs and everything, but people are speaking out more."

Mrs. Neale and other graduates said the nine-week program has helped them to understand and appreciate the difficulties police officers face on their beats.

"They really have a hard job," said Doris E. Campbell, a Rosemont Towers resident who said she was particularly entertained and informed by one lesson in which several citizens participated in role playing that illustrated the dangers of police work.

Erma D. Harris, another Rosemont Towers resident, said she has learned to identify dangerous behavior.

"I learned a whole lot to try to protect myself and my fellow man," Mrs. Harris said.

Sgt. J. C. Smith, of the department's Neighborhood Services, said the citizens academy graduates would help police. The department, meanwhile, has given area residents a new safety outlet and a deeper sense of security with the recent opening of a police substation in the front lobby of Rosemont Towers, at 740 Poplar Grove St.

"They're basically going to be the eyes and ears of the police force here," Sergeant Smith said. "Here we see a positive, a committed and a strong community."

Lt. Joseph Richardson, coordinator of the district's program, said participants in the program heard presentations from members of several units of the department, including the helicopter and K-9 sections, and have learned how suspects are charged by court commissioners. Fire Department members also have spoken to the group, he said, and some participants have gone on rides with officers on their beats.

He said the program was aimed at building closer ties between citizens and police. "Hopefully, this will change them into ambassadors for the Police Department," he said.

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