Candidate Brill spells out approach to crime in Arundel

May 13, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

,TC More police, a community policing program and a hot line to counsel people who might be on the verge of violence are parts of an anti-crime package a Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel County executive unveiled yesterday.

William H. Brill, a former County Council member who owns an Annapolis-based security planning and crime analysis firm, outlined his ideas at a meeting of about 130 members of the Annapolis Rotary Club.

Mr. Brill, 61, researched crime in public housing in the early 1970s while working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Nixon administration. He is also a former Georgetown University political science professor.

He served on the County Council from 1978 to 1982. He placed fourth in the 1982 Democratic primary for county executive.

At yesterday's meeting, he pointed out that violent crime in the county rose by 10.6 percent. This increase creates a climate of cautiousness and fear among its citizens, he said.

But the news is not all bad, he said. With a strong infrastructure -- good schools, an effective police department, a strong economy -- the county has the tools to fight crime.

"Like they say, all politics is local. Well, I'll tell you, most crime is local," Mr. Brill said, noting that criminals come from the county, are arrested by local police and spend some time in the county jail. "Local government has a tremendous opportunity and indeed a tremendous responsibility [to fight] crime."

The first step, he said, is to expand police protection.

"As it stands now, for example, only 6.2 percent of the county budget is for police. Yet when you do national surveys, when you do countywide surveys, crime is the No. 1 priority," he said. "Now, you can't wage a war on crime with 6.2 percent of your budget. It just doesn't work."

County police handled 330,670 incidents last year, up 13.6 percent from the previous year, and made 14,670 arrests, an 11.4 percent increase, he said.

Aside from hiring more officers, Mr. Brill said he also would try a more cost-efficient approach by increasing overtime for existing county officers and letting communities hire off-duty police officers.

"You're using existing people who are already qualified," Mr. Brill said after his talk. "New hires are the most expensive way to go."

Mr. Brill also favors community policing, which involves assigning police to specific communities where they work with residents to set up crime-prevention programs. Another tool to prevent crime would be a hot line.

"We need a place for people who are struggling or are on the verge of violent behavior to call and to get some sort of support, much like you have with a suicide hot line," he said. "In my experience, many criminals really turn over the notion of committing a violent crime in their heads. They don't just erupt. It's a building event."

Mr. Brill said he supports strengthening drug treatment programs. He would also like to see the school system develop a curriculum that would explore the nature of violence, help students learn to deal with their own aggressive feelings and solve conflicts without violence. He also outlined programs to help schools and businesses plan for security.

Finally, he said it is important to put violence and crime in its proper perspective. He recalled how a discussion of education and the environment turned into one on crime.

"I think in one sense it's very sad to let the crime problem drive all these other issues off the table," he said. "We have to realize there are other issues out there that have to be addressed as well."

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