Public housing policing to grow

10 off-duty officers to work up to 20 hours a week

`A home run for the residents'

City, authority to split the $300,000 cost

Annapolis

January 13, 2004|By Jason Song and Julie Bykowicz | Jason Song and Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Annapolis officials and the city's Housing Authority have agreed to spend about $300,000 next year for extra police presence in the capital's public housing communities, which authorities agree are the city's most crime-ridden areas.

The agreement, announced yesterday, follows weeks of negotiations over who should be responsible for policing the city's 10 public housing projects, where three of last year's five homicides occurred.

The deal is "a big strikeout for the bad guys ... and a home run for the residents," said Dennis Conti, a volunteer with the federally funded Housing Authority, which oversees the city's public housing.

Annapolis' police presence in public housing has dwindled over the past several years. During the 1990s, the authority received nearly $250,000 a year from the federal government to pay as many as 15 officers to work in the complexes.

The grant was cut two years ago, and six part-time, off-duty Annapolis Police Department officers now work in Housing Authority properties, which have nearly 11,000 units. The officers are allowed to use their equipment, including cars and guns, and can make arrests.

On-duty Annapolis officers regularly patrol the housing projects but cannot enforce the housing authority's rules and regulations because housing authority communities are considered private property.

Under the new agreement, the city and the authority will pay 10 off-duty officers who will be trained in community-oriented policing and will work with residents and attend community meetings and events. The cost will be split between the city and the Housing Authority, and the officers will have the authority to enforce city laws and housing authority regulations.

The off-duty officers each will work up to 20 hours a week. Candidates could come from the Annapolis Police Department or other law-enforcement agencies.

City officials hope the officers will help foster a sense of community and make residents more willing to report crimes.

"When residents are engaged and empowered in a community, crime goes down," Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said. "This isn't about police knocking on every door."

The authority also will hire and pay the salary of a full-time director of safety, who will earn $45,000 to $55,000 a year. The director will recruit and train officers, and serve as a liaison between the city and the Housing Authority.

The city and the authority also hope to designate a resident of each housing project as a community safety representative who would be a liaison between residents and the director of safety. The Housing Authority board also would appoint a safety committee and apply for more grants.

Elected officials applauded the agreement. "I'm thrilled," said Alderman Josh Cohen, who represents areas around some of the public housing in Eastport and wrote a letter to the Housing Authority's board seeking $150,000 for extra policing. "This is what my constituents have been pleading for, for months."

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