Police station is filled with new sophistication

April 22, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County's new police substation in Scaggsville is decorated more like a luxurious private home than an old-fashioned precinct house -- with cushioned seats, cathedral ceilings and mahogany veneer doors.

"It doesn't look like a traditional police station," said Capt. Richard Hall, a 21-year veteran of the Howard County Police Department, who oversees the substation. "It's more inviting to people."

On Sunday, the county will hold a dedication and open house for the new $4.8 million Public Safety Complex, which includes a fire station, 24-hour-a-day staffing and a "state-of-the-art" police 2d substation. The ceremony is to start at 2 p.m.

The 28,000-square-foot complex at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Route 216 serves areas south of Route 108, including North Laurel, Savage, Columbia and Clarksville. Those areas make up the new Southern District policing area.

The police substation will be home base to 120 patrol officers, about 60 percent of all county patrol officers. Roughly two-thirds of all calls in the county come from the Southern District, said Sgt. Steven Keller, spokesman for the Police Department.

Opened April 11, the substation features a wealth of sophisticated equipment, including 28 video cameras monitoring doorways throughout the building.

Officers file reports in a debriefing room that has 15 personal computers that can be used to access county, state and some federal crime information.

In a centrally located control center, an officer sits behind a glass window, looking out into the lobby. From there, the officer can monitor the cameras, control the locking of doors in the building, open and close the doors to the garage where officers bring in prisoners and handle requests from citizens who walk into the lobby.

Rooms for conferences and interviews, briefings and even for the chaplains working at the station are located off a corridor that circles the control center.

Residents in North Laurel and Savage have praised the construction of the new substation because they no longer have to travel to the Ellicott City headquarters to meet with police, or wait for officers to travel south to their community.

"Everybody in this area is very happy that we're going to have a police station," said Patsy Yingling, president of the North Laurel Civic Association.

"Our area is getting too overcrowded, and we need more police protection down this way."

Captain Hall said it takes an officer 30 minutes to 45 minutes to travel from police headquarters in Ellicott City to North Laurel. From the new substation, officers can reach North Laurel in five to 10 minutes, he said.

"The officers can not only get to their beats faster, they can

spend more time there," Capt. Hall said. "The main reason for this is to move them closer to the community. It's much easier in a crisis to deal with an officer who you were having a conversation with last week on a friendly basis."

Captain Hall said there are at least four officers regularly on patrol on the four beats that cover North Laurel and Savage.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said residents in the southern parts of the county have told him that they were concerned about the level of police patrols in their communities. Mr. Ecker said he hopes the new Public Safety Complex will allay residents' concerns.

"I think the substation and the fire station turned out extremely well," Mr. Ecker said. "I see them providing a lot better and higher quality service."

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