Agee proposes police substations

August 11, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

A Democratic county executive candidate has proposed creating a series of police substations to curb the fear of crime in Anne Arundel neighborhoods.

The substations, which would be staffed by police, firefighters, bTC retired officers and neighborhood volunteers, are the core of an anti-crime package Robert Agee released this week.

Mr. Agee, of Crofton, was an aide to former County Executive O. James Lighthizer. He said putting the substations in the county's fire houses and unused school space would allow him to hold down construction and maintenance costs. Firefighters and police could share communications and other equipment, thus further lowering costs.

Two of the five Democratic candidates in the Sept. 13 primary have released anti-crime proposals. A sixth candidate, William Brill of Annapolis, unveiled a plan in May but withdrew from the race last month.

Democrat H. Erle Schafer last month proposed hiring at least nine additional police officers to fill the complement of 25 the police chief requested last spring. County Executive Robert R. Neall financed 16 of those positions this year. Mr. Schafer said he also would aggressively pursue high-technology equipment, such as the "smart car" being developed by Westinghouse.

State Del. Theodore Sophocleus, another Democrat, is expected release his proposals this week.

Mr. Agee, 46, outlined his plans for public safety and the environment in documents released to The Sun's editorial board Monday.

At a recent forum sponsored by the Greater Odenton Improvement Association, Mr. Agee said the county is experiencing a "crisis of fear," though the level of crime is actually low. His public safety plan appears to be aimed at the public's perception of crime.

Mr. Agee said hiring more police is an attractive solution but also expensive and short-sighted. Basic training of a single cadet costs $60,000. Financing 25 new officers would cost $1.5 million, he said.

Putting more officers on the street by paying greater amounts of overtime for the existing force, a facet of Mr. Brill's plan, also is expensive and would lead to greater burn out, Mr. Agee said. His substations, which already have much of the costly communications equipment and other needed resources, would be manned by "neighborhood public safety teams" including police permanently assigned to those stations.

The auxiliary and volunteers would do much of the communications and paper work, freeing officers for actual police work, he said.

"Everybody knows where the community firehouse is, and they aren't afraid to go there," he said.

Mr. Sophocleus yesterday said he too would propose a plan based on substations, though he prefers to call them "community police centers," and advocates placing them in shopping centers and other public places.

"You don't want to hide them in the back of a school or in a fire station," said Mr. Sophocleus. "No one will see them."

To keep experienced officers and further reduce training costs, Mr. Agee would provide incentives to keep police on the force longer than the 20 years they need to earn their pensions. Other incentives would be offered to draw retired officers into auxiliary roles.

Mr. Agee's environmental program is aimed at protecting the county's 428 miles of shoreline and stream banks. He said he would create a "stream and habitat protection" program to take the county's most sensitive areas out of development.

Mr. Agee said he would use money from state Program Open Space and other programs to buy and protect stream and river banks. And he would offer builders who want to develop in pristine areas the chance, instead, to build higher densities elsewhere.

Mr. Agee said he also would:

* Create ways to allow small landowners to surrender their development rights for periods of 10 or 20 years in exchange for breaks on their property taxes.

* Target specific corridors where developers and landowners could plant new woodlands in anticipation of clearing property for development elsewhere. The existing "reforestation" program actually discourages developers from preserving trees, he said.

* Order that plants considered beneficial to the air quality and native to Anne Arundel be grown around government buildings and parks. In addition to improving the air, the foliage would eliminate mowing, watering and other maintenance costs associated with lawns.

L * Require new business parks to set aside more green spaces.

Mary Rosso, chairman of Anne Arundel Voters for Environmental Justice, had not seen Mr. Agee's proposals but said "he's on the right track."

Mrs. Rosso's group, a political action committee comprised of environmental activists, is expected to endorse a county executive candidate today. The PAC is looking for candidates to support increased recycling and a crackdown on waivers to the county's adequate facilities ordinance. Mr. Agee's platform made no mention of those ideas.

"It should have at least mentioned recycling," Mrs. Rosso said. "It sounds like a major omission to me."

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