Sophocleus would allow citizens to hire police

August 14, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

Neighborhoods and businesses could purchase additional police patrols under a proposal offered by Democratic county executive candidate Theodore Sophocleus.

But the community and business groups would have to be willing to pay the additional costs incurred by the county for the officers' training, equipment and supervision, said Mr. Sophocleus, a state delegate and former county councilman.

The proposal is part of an anti-crime package Mr. Sophocleus' released Thursday. Democratic rivals H. Erle Schafer, a former clerk of the Circuit Court, and Robert Agee, who was an aide to former County Executive O. James Lighthizer, released their anti-crime proposals earlier.

Allowing communities to buy increased security is not new. Anne Arundel communities already can create special taxing districts to hire guards, often off-duty police officers, to patrol their neighborhoods.

Baltimore City received authority from the General Assembly last winter to create a special tax district in Charles Village to put more police on the street there. Mr. Sophocleus said he heard about the idea during testimony in his House of Delegates committee.

"It's an option that I think should be offered to people," he said Friday. "It's not something that you have to do to get police protection. We're still going to concentrate the same help to every community that we already do."

The proposal has drawn criticism from Mr. Sophocleus' opponents.

Mr. Schafer, who also has served on the County Council and in the state Senate, said the proposal would be unfair to the county's poorer communities.

"That would mean the rich would get special treatment," he said.

Larry Walker, a county police corporal and another Democratic candidate for executive, said creating large numbers of supplemental policing districts could be counterproductive.

"It's kind of a termite when it comes to community-oriented policing," Mr. Walker said. "It tears down your system."

Mr. Sophocleus' plan calls for increased community policing by creating storefront police stations, police-supervised gyms and athletic programs and more bike patrols.

"The answer is in going back to what we used to be," Mr. Sophocleus said.

Mr. Agee, who proposed putting police substations in neighborhood firehouses, criticized the storefront component of his opponent's plan.

"People need protection in their communities," Mr. Agee said. "The malls can afford their own security."

Most of the candidates agree that the police force needs more officers. Mr. Sophocleus said Friday that he wants at least 50 new officers over the next three years, though he offered no specifics on how he would pay for them.

"That's a big-ticket item; that's a lot of money," said Mr. Agee, noting that it costs $60,000 to train a cadet.

To reduce drug-related crimes, Mr. Sophocleus said he would emphasize drug abuse prevention programs, many of which have been cut by County Executive Robert R. Neall. Mr. Sophocleus said he would like to expand the police DARE program for fifth-graders, and would ask the Board of Education to introduce a follow-up curriculum in subsequent grades.

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