Newest precinct to open station

Balto. County creates first new police district in over 50 years for growing Pikesville area

May 08, 2006|By NICK SHIELDS | NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTER

As Baltimore County has grown, its police department has moved over the years into new facilities in places like White Marsh, Towson and Reisterstown. But the opening of a station house today in Pikesville is, department officials say, unlike any in more than half a century.

The others were built to replace antiquated facilities. The brick-and-glass building in Pikesville is for a newly created precinct.

The new Precinct 4 is designed to enable a team of officers to focus on the law enforcement needs of the Pikesville area while relieving some of the burden of covering the fast-growing neighboring police district that stretches northwest to Reisterstown and beyond.

"Now you have a large area to cover and a lot more people to cover," said county police spokesman Bill Toohey, referring to the area that had been patrolled by the Precinct 3 officers from the Franklin station. "Because the population of Precinct 3 was growing, we created Precinct 4."

Pikesville has had a substation since 1998. By 2001, the location for the new building - on Milford Mill Road, just west of Reisterstown Road - had been selected. The $4.2 million Pikesville station house is, according to police officials, the first built for a newly created precinct since 1953.

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, who represents Pikesville, said the new precinct will enable the police to better serve the area.

"What the community will get is a full-fledged police precinct, shorter response times from police officers and a greater police presence in the area where we want to highlight police presence," he said. "It's good for morale, for the police officers, and good for morale, for the community, because they will be seeing that enhanced police presence."

Before now, there had been no Precinct 4 - or Precinct 5, for that matter. During the 1980s numbers were applied to some of the precincts, Toohey said. He said that a realignment of the precincts also occurred during this time and that it was decided to leave some of the numbers open to accommodate growth.

The police department periodically looks at the boundaries of these precincts, and new facilities are built as needed. The Franklin station, on Nicodemus Road, was opened in 2003 to replace the old Garrison precinct house on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills.

During the process of drawing lines for the new precinct, the Police Department created an advisory council with community leaders to hear concerns and field questions about communities that would be affected.

Sue Kessler, president of the police community relations council for Precinct 3, said she was apprehensive about the new precinct because it would split her group.

"Our council has been together for 20 years," she said. "Then all of a sudden we knew we were going to be separated. I saw a separation anxiety."

In February she helped the council members affected by the split develop their own council.

Vicki Almond has been a member of the Franklin Precinct's police council for about 10 years and was a member of the advisory committee to help with the development of the new boundaries.

"It seemed to be a very smooth transition," she said. "We have lost some of our officers that we've known very well, but community-wise it went well."

Almond said the department almost had no choice but to expand its number of precincts.

"Franklin was absolutely huge, and with Owings Mills being a growth center - once communities discovered the service they would get would be good, if not better, they were OK with it," she said.

According to the U.S. Census, the Owings Mills area had about 20,100 people in 2000 - more than twice the population in 1990. The Pikesville area has seen smaller but noticeable growth. The new Pikesville precinct will serve about 60,000 residents.

Capt. Kimberley Meeks-Hall said it was important that the lines of the new precinct not split neighborhoods.

"We didn't want to divide a community," she said. "We wanted a community to only have to deal with one precinct."

Meeks-Hall and about 100 police officers will move into the new Pikesville facility today. She said working in the substation while construction was being wrapped up on the new building has been like living in an apartment "while your custom house is being built."

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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