Catching the bad guys Police cooperation: Security agencies abound in the city, but are they talking to one another?

July 14, 1998

THE DECISION by the city police to give housing authority officers wider arrest powers is a welcome step to bolster law enforcement in some of the toughest areas of Baltimore.

Until now, the housing authority's more than 100 officers have been confined to patrolling the compounds of the widely scattered public housing projects. If crime happened next door, city police had to be called.

This, of course, is nonsense. Citizens do not care what kind of badge or uniform officers are wearing. They want action.

The city police department begun in Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier's four years reject the myth of its professional superiority. Key evidence is a memorandum, resisted by previous commissioners, that inaugurated joint actions with Baltimore County police on cross-jurisdictional crimes. Cooperation with the housing authority police continues these efforts.

The police department has also taken steps to improve coordination with other law enforcement agencies.

In the Mount Royal cultural district area alone, no fewer than a dozen such groups operate, ranging from the Department of General Services security (for state offices) to University of Baltimore and Maryland Institute, College of Art police. Their sophistication and authority vary greatly, but all of those groups observe actual or potential lawlessness. They develop information that should be -- and is -- shared.

In the central business district, the various security organizations hold monthly meetings and have initiated joint training sessions.

A major deterrent to more effective joint police work has been an antiquated communications system that does not even allow neighboring city police districts to talk to one another. A new 800 MHZ radio system, scheduled to be launched later this year, should finally change that, ending the sort of backwardness in today's world of technological possibilities that is unconscionable.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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