If you want more troopers, spend more money, county is told

April 05, 1995|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

The key question asked by the Carroll County commissioners yesterday was, "How many resident troopers do we need to properly police a county of 140,000 people?"

The answer from state police was, "How much money do you want to spend?"

Lt. Col. James Harvey, deputy superintendent, and other officials told the commissioners that 140 state police jobs and 30 civilian positions statewide would remain open and unfunded through 1996 because no money was provided for them in the Maryland budget approved Monday by the General Assembly.

Although state police probably will face a reduction in uniformed personnel in every barracks in the state, Carroll will not lose any of its 38 uniformed resident troopers, Colonel Harvey said.

Pointing out that Carroll's population is growing, Colonel Harvey said, "I encourage you to get more resident troopers in the future," even though the crime rate in the county dropped 2.2 percent last year.

Carl Banaszewski, director of planning and research for the state police, told the commissioners that, because of a lack of money, only one training class of 30 to 40 recruits will be held this year at the state police academy in Pikesville.

If Carroll County indicates it wants 10 new resident troopers, the class would be increased by that number, he said.

The first-year cost for each new resident trooper -- paid by the county -- is $96,000. This includes salary, a car, radio, weapon, uniform and other equipment. A new vehicle would be required about every four years, police said.

Even without additional resident troopers, the cost of the program in Carroll will increase by about $54,000 in fiscal 1996 because of the 2 percent pay increase for state employees and increased equipment costs, the commissioners were told.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown asked Mr. Banaszewski whether the county has too many or too few troopers. "Is there a ratio for the number of law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents?" he asked.

There are too many variables to give a definitive answer, Mr. Banaszewski said.

However, he offered to provide information from state police records to help the county make a staffing decision.

He said the ratio would be much different in an area with a large population and a high crime area from the ratio in a rural area such as Carroll County, where most of the violent crime -- such as murder, robbery and aggravated assault -- occurs in Westminster.

Mr. Brown, a former Westminster mayor, noted that the city, which has its own police force, has an average response time of two minutes to crime calls.

Mr. Brown said he wondered whether it would be feasible to create a Westminster "metro" area police force around the city's borders, using mostly Westminster police and some county money to pay for it.

The idea, he said, would be to cover areas just outside the city line where merchants and residents could expect to receive two-minute police response times to emergency calls.

State police officials acknowledged that their average response time to calls in the county is more than two minutes because of staffing limitations, but didn't provide precise figures.

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