Councilman wants more police in city's northeast

Harris proposes redrawing law enforcement districts


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July 15, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Complaining of thin police resources in his area, a city councilman from Northeast Baltimore plans to propose a bill next month that would require police to reconfigure the boundaries of the nine patrol districts.

Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. said he is calling for the remapping because he believes police have focused so many resources on lowering the homicide rate in certain parts of the city that other areas are being shortchanged, including neighborhoods that he represents.

"We've been fighting crime based on where the murders have been taking place," said Harris, of the 4th council district. "But what's happening is that crimes that are not a priority aren't handled with the same sense of urgency."

A central focus of Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm's crime-fighting strategy this year has been assigning more officers to tackle homicides and shootings in the eastern, western and northwestern districts. The eastern and western districts are among the smallest patrol areas; the northeastern district is one of the largest.

Police officials said yesterday they were open to meeting with City Council members to discuss how they are allocating law enforcement resources.

"The Police Department does not just deploy resources on size of the district or who might live there, but we look at crime volume, the type of crimes, homicides, shootings," said Marcus Brown, the deputy commissioner.

Brown noted that police aren't confined to geographic boundaries in their crime-fighting strategies. "If there's a spike in the northeast [district], we deploy more units into those areas," he said.

A review of crimes by district showed that the northeastern district had 4,186 crimes for the first six months this year - the highest of all nine districts. There were 13 homicides and 38 shootings during the period.

The eastern district reported 2,230 crimes for the same period, including 22 homicides and 44 shootings.

Harris' measure, which he expects to introduce Aug. 15, has the support of Councilman Robert W. Curran, another Northeast Baltimore representative, who has lobbied the police for more resources for several years.

The Police Department's plan this year called for at least 300 officers for the eastern district. Curran estimated that there were about 160 officers on regular duty in the northeastern district.

"I understand what Commissioner Hamm is trying to do, but when you do these initiatives, it takes personnel from other districts," said Curran, of the 3rd council district.

It's unclear whether Harris' proposal will gain wider support from other council members, particularly in the districts where police have focused more officers and resources this year. Those districts accounted for 55 homicides, nearly 40 percent of the total for the first six months of the year.

As of yesterday, there had been 146 homicides in the city this year, compared with 157 during the same period last year.

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