A cop on every block? Experiment: Pilot program in Florida lets police buy foreclosed houses at half-price.

November 25, 1997

WHEN THEIR work shifts are over, most members of Baltimore City's police force head to their homes in the surrounding counties. Among the city's 3,200 sworn officers Harford County is particularly popular.

What would it take to convince more officers to live among city taxpayers?

In cooperation with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, two Orlando-area counties in Florida have began an intriguing pilot program that allows officers to buy foreclosed houses for half-price in 15 distressed neighborhoods.

As if that wasn't sweet enough, officers have to pay only $100 down, instead of the usual 10 percent. The only catch is they have to pledge to live in the houses for at least three years.

This is an experiment Baltimore City ought to copy as soon as possible.

Since the Clinton administration launched its "Officer Next Door" program in August, Baltimore has been talking to HUD, says Thomas Jaudon, a city official promoting homeownership. However, the Schmoke administration wants the definition of police officers broadened to include school and housing officers.

Mr. Jaudon seems optimistic Baltimore can get a similar program going next year. That would be none too soon.

Baltimore's troubled neighborhoods are full of foreclosed HUD houses. While they are supposedly looked after by real estate companies, many of those houses are broken into and ransacked. Rather than letting them remain sitting ducks for vandals, those houses should be sold at favorable terms to people who want to take care of them and live in them.

Many police officers who reside in the city are active participants in their neighborhoods during off-hours. If more officers can be encouraged to move into Baltimore City, they would add to the glue that binds troubled neighborhoods together.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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