A Police Concept from Japan

April 18, 1995

A crane has finally delivered the long-awaited "koban" to the corner of West Lexington and North Howard streets, a block east of Lexington Market.

In a few weeks, that Japanese-inspired 8-by-12-foot blue box will be activated as a new police substation. If the concept works, similar substations may crop up in such places as the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.

It is instructive to consider how the city police ended up erecting this free-standing box in the middle of the pedestrian Lexington Mall.

For several years now, a police substation has been on the wish list of those who worry about the Howard Street corridor and want that one-time retail hub revitalized. The initial inclination was to use one of the many vacant storefronts on Howard Street for a police outpost.

It probably was good that this plan never materialized because a koban on Lexington Mall will have several advantages over other locations.

It will be visible, it will be in the middle of a major pedestrian area and close to both a light-rail and Metro station. Since the koban's purpose is to instill a sense of security in passers-by, this clearly is the way to go.

The koban will also be near the future main entrance of a large Rite Aid store that will be the anchor of the venerable old Hecht Co. building. Again, the symbolism is proper.

In coming months, some of the most meaningful Howard Street revitalization efforts will be happening inside that colossus. At the same time, the corner where Rite Aid is currently located will have to be redeveloped. The proximity of the $125,000 koban ought to make the site seem more desirable.

We welcome this effort by the city police department to increase patrol visibility in the Howard Street corridor. Yes, people will come, if you offer variety, value, parking -- and security. The koban is a good start.

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