State agrees to pay cost of county light-rail patrols Agreement covers 5 years of extra security at stops

April 18, 1997|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County taxpayers will save $5 million -- the estimated cost of light rail county police patrols -- now that county officials have persuaded Gov. Parris Glendening to pay for five years of patrols.

Officials at the Mass Transit Administration told County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersbergerlast week that they could no longer afford to pay for the patrols that supplement regular MTA patrol officers.

But Ruppersberger met with state Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead, then spoke with the governor by telephone, said Michael Davis, a Ruppersberger spokesman.

"The governor understood our position," Davis said. "The citizens feel that it should be a state obligation, and we thank the governor for being responsive to us."

The $5 million covers five years of police patrols at eight light rail stations in the county, including the five scheduled to open this summer, Davis said.

Residents have complained for years about the rising number of thefts and burglaries around the Lutherville, Timonium Business Park and Deereco Road stops.

Since mid-1994, the state has paid for county officers who volunteered to provide additional security in and around the stations for overtime pay. MTA officers provide security aboard the trains. But budget constraints recently forced the MTA to ask Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties to pay a third of the cost.

Using county police at the stations to supplement MTA patrol officers has been a temporary solution to the public outcry over ++ rising crime around the light rail stations. Residents have been bitter about paying for more police coverage for the stations -- which some never wanted in their neighborhoods.

"I'm grateful that the state is willing to pay for this," said Eric Rockel, president of the Lutherville Community Association, who has said it should be the state's responsibility to pay for the police protection. "And I am appreciative of all the elected officials that worked to make this happen."

County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican, said: "This is a step in the right direction. But I am still concerned with the level of crime which I think is directly attributable to the light rail. I hope the state and the county continue to address this problem."

Lisa Ritter, spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary, said the outcome of the MTA's request that the county pay part of the cost of police patrols is unclear.

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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