Arundel residents, firms buy security cameras for police station

November 14, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

You'd think the uninvited houseguests -- the homeless, the prostitutes and young graffiti artists -- owned the Northern District Police station's waiting area by the way they walk in and flop on the sofa to catch a breather or commit a bit of vandalism.

The police can't see them because of the bulletproof glass installed last summer to protect the officers from attack. A brick wall, built last summer, also blocks officers' view of the parking lot.

To fix that problem, north county residents and businesses are buying observation cameras and monitors for the parking lot, lobby and waiting area. More than $1,000 has been raised to date.

Goldberg's Liquors in Brooklyn Park is helping to get the cameras and monitors at a discount. The store has donated one camera and will be reimbursed for another through the area residents' camera fund.

Dolores Impallaria heard about the station's problems from one of the officers and started gathering support from neighbors.

"They do a lot to help us. This is our way of saying, 'Thank you,' " said Mrs. Impallaria, a police station volunteer and community leader. "We need to protect them. They're like my boys, my kids."

Capt. Gary Barr said the station could have requested a camera in its budget, but approval might not have come for years because of the county's tight budget.

Before the brick barricade and bulletproof glass went up, officers could see all parts of the station.

But in May 1993 a man went berserk in the station. With the barricade and bulletproof glass came protection, but the officers were left with blind spots.

Captain Barr said he walked out of his office one day and found a man resting on the waiting room sofa.

"Excuse me," Captain Barr recalled the man saying. "Do you know what time it is?"

"It's 8:07," Captain Barr replied, before realizing that "this was the guy who had been coming in frequently to sleep on the couch."

On another day, six youths wandered into the waiting area and left their calling card: black-spray-painted graffiti all over the walls, the lamps and the restrooms.

The youths were caught later that day when two of them came back to the station to ask the officers for a ride home.

The officers made them reveal who the other four were and clean as much paint off the walls as possible. Detective James A. Baublitz, who will install the station's observation cameras, said the youths were charged with destruction of property.

Police hope the vandalism and loitering will stop when the cameras arrive.

"The way the lobby area is configured, you can't see it from the desk," Captain Barr said. "They could . . . do anything around there and we couldn't see them."

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