The Carroll County commissioners have decided that sheriff's deputies, instead of Hampstead police officers, will be the first to respond to incidents at North Carroll High, a school of nearly 1,400 students that is within the town limits.
Because of the burden the numerous calls from the school placed on the town's police force of eight officers, the county commissioners approved a policy yesterday that gives initial responsibility to the larger sheriff's department. It takes effect immediately.
Hampstead is the only town among the county's eight municipalities that has a high school within its borders, and policing the facility has stressed the local police force, town officials said.
Hampstead Mayor Haven Shoemaker said town officers spend "an inordinate amount of time" at the high school, and the new policy will allow them to devote more time to town issues.
"The county has recognized the unique set of circumstances we have in Hampstead and responded to our needs," Shoemaker said. "This measure is designed to help us. Our officers have had to respond to an inordinate number of calls and that is why we have made this case."
Town police responded to 73 calls from the school last year and made six arrests. Town officers arrested 170 people in all last year. In 2002, 79 incidents at the school resulted in 24 arrests and the year before that, 101 incidents led to 35 arrests.
"It does not sound like a lot, but it can be time-consuming," said Capt. Jay Gribbin of the town police. "This took up a large percentage of our resources. The sheriff's department will certainly be a help to us."
Gribbin stressed that the calls from the school on Panther Drive at Route 482 are not all crime-related. The arrests at the school did not always involve students, nor did they all occur during school hours, he said. The town police respond to traffic incidents and also run various programs at the school.
The numbers of police calls are fairly typical for a high school, said Larry Faries, coordinator of security for the county schools.
"This is nothing overwhelming at all," Faries said. "But I can understand the town's problem."
The town began pursuing the commissioners for assistance and a change in policy more than two years ago.
The new policy gives the Hampstead police duties that are similar to their municipal colleagues, said Steven Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff.