Crime and grime patrols may not start until March

January 06, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Residents of Charles Village -- the first city neighborhood to agree to pay more property taxes for safer, cleaner streets -- are unlikely to see their money put into action until March.

The special taxing district's full staff -- 12 to 14 public safety officers, a two- to four-member Clean Team, an administrator and a director of public safety -- won't be hired until then, Thomas J. Shafer, chairman of the district's interim board, told residents last night at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church.

"It's a challenge to get this thing in operation, now that we have gotten past the financial hurdles and the political hurdles," he said.

About 80 neighborhood residents attended the meeting, some expressing support or concerns about the coming changes. Others, such as homeowner Edward O'Connell, just came to be informed.

Mr. Connell said he originally thought the tax increase provided for only three public safety officers. He was comforted to read in the board's budget proposal that there would be 12 to 14 public safety officers, augmented by citizen patrols.

"Quite frankly, reading this over makes me feel better, too," said Mr. O'Connell, 49, who has lived on the western side of Charles Village for 12 years and voted in favor of the taxing district in an election conducted by mail last month.

Next week, the interim board is to present its operations plan and budget, bylaws and an initial slate of 14 members to the city Board of Estimates which is to certify results of the Dec. 1 referendum that created the district.

Selection of an administrator by the interim board is expected to take six to eight weeks, and that will be followed by the search for a director of public safety. But the district might hire some interim security officers before March, said Mr. Shafer, an administrative partner at Whitman, Requardt and Associates.

The key to beefing up neighborhood security will be coordinating the district's efforts with other law enforcement groups, he said. Representatives from the Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Police Department's Northern District and other organizations with private security guards will help develop a comprehensive plan.

"If Johns Hopkins says, 'We'll patrol this block for these hours,' we'll use our force elsewhere," Mr. Shafer said. "We can't patrol 24 hours a day."

The Charles Village Community Benefit District is a 100-block area bounded by 20th and 33rd streets, Howard Street and Greenmount Avenue, home to a population estimated at 10,000.

In December, residents approved a plan to increase their property taxes from $5.85 to $6.15 per $100 of assessed value in Charles Village, South Charles Village and a small part of Waverly. Homeowners will see an additional $25 to $150 on their property tax bills; businesses will pay more.

The taxation plan, which was approved by a nearly 2-1 margin, provides $400,000 for the district. Another $100,000 was donated by John Hopkins University, whose Homewood campus lies on the edge of the neighborhood. The district also received donations from businesses and citizens. The plan grew out of the robbery-murder of a young engineer on the Whitman, Requardt parking lot at St. Paul and 25th streets in December 1990.

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