Responding to perceptions that light rail brings crime from Baltimore to surrounding counties, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday announced a $2.5 million effort to improve security in and around the state's expanding light rail system.
The new measures, which begin in early September with the opening of the northernmost station in Hunt Valley, are designed to make light rail users and county residents "feel confident" that they will be safe using or living near the light rail, Glendening said.
The state-funded initiative includes $1.1 million to put one Mass Transit Administration officer on every light rail train, said Anthony Brown, MTA director of communications. MTA police now patrol light rail trains on an as-needed basis, Brown said.
The program also will spend an as-yet-undetermined amount to put video surveillance equipment at light rail stations, Brown said.
In addition, about $700,000 will be spent on personnel to monitor the cameras; about $450,000 will be spent on MTA police to monitor light rail stations at several Baltimore stops, Brown said.
Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger expressed satisfaction that the state also will continue a separate program that pays the wages of police officers in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties who provide security in and around light rail stations on their off-duty hours.
Last spring, the state had threatened to cut off such funding, which would have cost Baltimore County about $900,000 a year.
Residents and businesses around light rail stops have long complained that the system brings crime to their areas. Last year, 121 thefts occurred around the Timonium Business Park station -- the highest in five years.
Other stops, such as those in Lutherville, Baltimore Highlands and Falls Road, also have shown crime increases, police data show.
Some people around light rail stops are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new security program.
"None of this is going to change criminal activity" in the areas, said Louis Miller, board member of the Greater Timonium Community Council.
But the new initiatives are "definitely an improvement" over current conditions, Miller said.
Frederick C. Paine, Hunt Valley Mall manager, praised the state's initiative. He said he expects business as usual when the nearby light rail station opens. Paine also said the mall has issued uniforms to its security team, improved parking lot lamps, and created bicycle patrols for the parking lots.
Pub Date: 6/20/97