Contract extensions will keep off-duty police officers from Baltimore and from Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties patrolling light-rail stations in their jurisdictions during discussions on maintaining security.
Baltimore County's contract, which was to have expired this week, has been extended to Sept. 1 at the county's request, said Anthony Brown, a Mass Transit Administration spokesman. The city and Anne Arundel contracts remain in force until July 1997.
Crime surged around some light-rail stops and on some light-rail trains after the service opened in April 1992. The MTA police force was understaffed, and public outcry led the MTA to hire off-duty police officers on a regular basis in July 1994.
As the Baltimore County contract neared expiration, some merchants and residents near light-rail stops expressed fears of a resurgence of crime if county officers were no longer available, said Sgt. Kevin Novak, a county police spokesman.
The contract extension was sought "to continue to assure folks of the highest possible security," Novak said.
Baltimore County Chief Terrence B. Sheridan has said that even without the contract, police would make regular patrols of the light-rail stops and parking lots, and the department would monitor crime reports closely, said Bill Toohey, also a department spokesman.
MTA Administrator John A. Agro Jr. said transportation officials will meet with the local police departments to discuss ways to achieve a long-term partnership between MTA police and officers in the three jurisdictions that the line passes through.
MTA officers have jurisdiction only within the stations; the police have countywide or citywide jurisdiction. Many of the crime problems that have been linked to the light rail occur outside MTA jurisdiction.
Some of the 24 rail stops -- five in each of the counties and 14 in the city -- are close enough together that the same officer can cover more than one, Agro said.
The officers are paid at overtime rates by the MTA, and a large pool of volunteers is available for the extra duty. Agro said it costs the MTA about $1.5 million a year for the extra police coverage -- $200,000 to $250,000 more than the cost of having only MTA officers on duty without overtime.
Seventeen MTA police recruits are due to complete training shortly, and some will be assigned to Baltimore County light-rail operations, the MTA spokesman said.
MTA officers also ride the light-rail trains.
Agro said that to provide full coverage, the MTA needs 16 more officers. Those positions, which must become available through attrition in the Department of Transportation, should be available within a few months, he said.
Sgt. Jeff Kelly, an Anne Arundel police spokesman, said the joint effort of the county force and the MTA police has been successful in holding down crime around the county's five light-rail stops.