Police districts adjusted

Long Reach village switched into Northern District

Southern District busier

Change intended to divide workload more evenly

October 17, 2001|By Julie Bykowicz

Starting today, Howard County's northern police district will be a little larger. The district is being expanded to embrace Long Reach village of Columbia.

The Police Department is making the switch to try to balance the workloads of officers in the southern and northern police districts. Southern District officers have been handling the majority of the county's calls for service in recent years.

In 1999, the Southern District responded to about 66,000 - 61 percent - of the county's 108,000 calls for service. Based on 1999 data, the new police configuration will divide calls for service at roughly 55 percent to 45 percent, with the Southern District still handling more calls.

"Even a 5 [percent] to 7 percent shift makes an immense difference in the workload," said Capt. Bill McMahon, commander of the Southern District. He said the Police Department will continue to evaluate how police work is divvied up in the county.

All of Columbia's villages had been grouped with North Laurel, Jessup, Savage, Fulton and other areas south of Route 108 to form the Southern District, which is based in Scaggsville.

The Northern District operates from police headquarters in Ellicott City and encompasses Elkridge and western Howard, among other areas north of Route 108.

McMahon said factors other than calls for service also played into the decision to shift Long Reach out of the Southern District. Until today, Southern handled both of the county's HotSpots - one in Long Reach and one in Harper's Choice - and the community policing initiative in North Laurel. Such police efforts take up many hours of administrative time, McMahon said.

The county opened the $4.8 million, 28,000-square-foot Public Safety Complex, which houses the Southern District station and a fire station, in April 1994. Since its inception, Southern has handled more calls than Northern.

Residents and officers won't see much of a change between the way things operated yesterday and the way they operate today.

"The move should be transparent to citizens," McMahon said. "Officers are mainly staying in the same areas, but their supervision may be different."

Even though Pfc. Lisa Myers, the community liaison for the Long Reach HotSpot program, and many of her fellow officers in Long Reach will now report to the Northern District, some of them may have deja vu - the Northern District commander, Capt. Howard Ferguson, used to be the Southern District commander.

Residents in the Northern District, including Long Reach, should call 410-313-3200 to reach police for nonemergencies. Southern District residents should call 410-313-3700 for nonemergencies.

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