Sgt. Austin Pohl of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office and David L. Kreek of Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute are preparing their 30 students to be some of the best crime stoppers they can put on the streets.
But the people clustered in a classroom Thursday at the Frederick County Fire Training Facility were not from the police academy. They were civilians.
The Citizens Crime Prevention Academy, sponsored by the crime prevention institute and several law enforcement agencies, enables citizens to use police experience to help make neighborhoods safer.
Ten people from Carroll County, including two elected officials, are participating in the program.
"Basically, it's the same training that a police officer gets for crime prevention," said Trooper James Emerick of the Maryland State Police in Westminster, one of the program's sponsors. "The purpose of giving them the same training is to help them understand the way the police approach a situation."
The Frederick Sheriff's Office is the host of the eight-week course, which began June 9 and will end July 28. Other sponsors include city police of Frederick and Hagerstown.
During Thursday's two-hour class, Sergeant Pohl and Mr. Kreek stressed the importance of the relationship between residents and law enforcement agents in community policing.
But to be successful, they said, resident participation must go beyond reporting suspicious activities in neighborhoods.
"We need citizens to be an integral part. In order to have community policing, we have to have constant dialogue," Sergeant Pohl said. For example, residents' comments on police service would help law enforcement agencies understand how well officers perform their duties.
A good relationship between officers and communities would lead to the solution of other problems, the sergeant said.
"It [the course] gives a real awareness of what the problems are and what can be done. It helps us know what to look for," said Bill Dauer, a state police volunteer in the crime prevention unit and course participant. "Each person that gains awareness; that's another set of eyes and ears to aid the police."
Charles and Marge Chowning regard the course as a way to protect their Silver Run neighborhood from the burglary and vandalism the area experienced several months ago.
"A group of kids were going around and ransacking the houses, looking for valuables," said Mr. Chowning, a maintenance supervisor for the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup.
"Just taking the valuables is one thing, but [for a person] to come home to see your place torn up, that's something else."
Two Carroll County elected officials joined the crime prevention course to gather information to encourage watch programs in their towns.
"I want to set an example for the people who elected me," New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said. New Windsor has a Community Watch program.
"I hope to learn more about community policing and show people by doing this that there is a reason for their participation in this program," he said. "In actuality, this type of program cannot be implemented without their participation."
Union Bridge Councilman Bret D. Grossnickle, whose town is trying to implement a Community Watch, agreed.
"I think it is good that they have this type of thing [the course] because it is not easy just trying to start these things up," Mr. Grossnickle said. "I mean, I don't know all these things. I'm just a truck driver."
The institute is a unit of state government administered by the Maryland Police Training Commission of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
For more information, call the institute (410) 442-2700 or write to 3085 Hernwood Road, Woodstock, Md. 21163-1099.