The sniper never struck in Howard County, but guarding against that possibility is expected to cost the county nearly a quarter of a million dollars in overtime for the long hours police worked during the three weeks the shooter terrorized the region, police officials said yesterday.
About 30 officers are normally on patrol in the county at any given time, but during the sniper attacks more than 140 officers were sometimes on the streets, police Chief Wayne Livesay said. Officers normally work three days in a row, but many worked six days a week through the crisis, Livesay said.
When all costs are added, the cost of the sniper alert could easily swell to a half-million dollars and the department could surpass its nearly $2 million overtime budget, but Livesay shrugged off any financial concerns.
"We put a big dent [into the budget] ... but I think the agency performed well, and we're fortunate we didn't have a shooting here," he said.
Other municipalities are beginning to tally their expenses for the sniper investigation.
Prince George's County, where a 13-year-old boy was shot, spent in excess of $200,000 in police and emergency services overtime, although officials have not finished totaling expenses, said Fred Thomas, director of public safety for the county.
Police officials in Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties, as well as the Maryland State Police, have not tallied any extra costs, officials said.
While no shootings occurred in Howard County, police were on high alert because Howard shares a border with Montgomery, where six of the killings occurred.
After four people were shot the morning of Oct. 3, Howard police went on high alert and began recalling as many as 110 officers a day, Livesay said. Officers were not allowed to take scheduled leave or vacations, and nonviolent crimes were "put on the back burner," Livesay said.
Many of the officers were sent to the county's 67 schools, while others were stationed at major roads. Plainclothes officers went to shopping centers to scout for suspects.
So many officers were working at once that the department, which has a fleet of about 300 vehicles, occasionally ran out of cars for patrol, Livesay said.
Police officials also had to work overtime to coordinate scheduling and develop plans to close roads if a shooting did occur in the county, Livesay said.
As the investigation continued, Livesay and others began to worry that the long hours would take a toll on officers, but, the chief said, "I didn't hear one complaint about vacation or child care the entire time."
As officers return to normal schedules and begin handling more mundane chores such as investigating bike thefts and reports of other stolen property, senior Howard police officials are scheduled today to review their performance during the sniper attacks.
Livesay was unsure whether the Police Department would exceed its budget during the sniper investigation because overtime bills for officers and support staff such as dispatchers are being tallied, but local elected leaders said they are willing to shuffle funds to defray the cost.
"Public safety has to come as a top priority for us. ... I would certainly be supportive of their past efforts with the sniper investigation," said Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican.
Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, said, "We're obviously going to do whatever we have to do to support the police officers."
Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.