Balto. Co. Council hears anti-terror cost, concerns

$100,000 spent on security

calls stretch manpower

November 06, 2001|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County has seen a tremendous increase in calls to examine potentially hazardous materials since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has increased police patrols of sensitive sites, but police, fire and health officials said in a County Council briefing last night that they have not incurred significant overtime expenses.

The county has spent about $100,000 on its efforts to increase security and respond to anthrax scares, County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger told the County Council last night. The figure is lower than in other jurisdictions because the county has fewer federal sites to protect, he said.

Ruppersberger and the chiefs of the county Fire, Police and Health departments emphasized that there have been no instances of terrorism in the county, but agencies continue to prepare for any contingencies.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Maryland section gave an incorrect number for a Baltimore County hot line for questions about anthrax and other safety concerns. The number is 410-887-3490.
The Sun regrets the error.

However, the diversion of personnel from their regular duties may be a factor in a recent increase in crime in the county, Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said.

Police have seen an increase in reports of burglary, robbery and auto theft, crimes Sheridan said are believed to be indicators of overall criminal activity. But he said how much can be blamed on the diversion of manpower and how much is due to other factors cannot be quantified.

"When you have 33 calls a day to go out to check on white powder that's nothing more than sugar on a doughnut or chalk on a weightlifting machine, that takes time to resolve, and that takes an officer away from his beat," Sheridan said.

Fire Chief John Homan said that in a typical year, the hazardous materials team responds to between 125 and 150 calls. But since Oct. 11, when the anthrax scare began, it has responded to more than 320 calls.

Dr. Michelle Leverett, director of the county's Health Department, said workers continue to monitor hospitals for patients whose symptoms might indicate anthrax. The department is also in close contact with state and federal health officials and is ready to treat any outbreak that may occur.

To answer questions about anthrax and to reduce the volume of 911 calls, the county has set up a hot line, staffed by Health Department nurses, at 410-877-3490. More information, including the county's emergency preparedness plan, is available on the county Web site at www.co.ba.md.us.

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