Private Donors Save City Horse Patrol For At Least Another Year

December 03, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann , peter.hermann@baltsun.com

Donors rode to the rescue of the Baltimore Police Department's cash-strapped horse patrol, ensuring that the 121-year-old mounted unit will continue for at least one more year with more than $90,000 from private givers.

A South Baltimore community group - the Curtis Bay-Brooklyn Environmental Oversight Committee - and Curtis Bay Energy Co. donated a combined $5,000 on Wednesday evening, putting the months-long fundraising effort over the top.

"For as long as we work together, horses will be in Baltimore City," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told residents at the Southern District police station.

Money raised through the nonprofit Baltimore Community Foundation now stands at $77,600, not including a $15,000 check coming from Shomrim, a Jewish community crime-watch group from Northwest Baltimore that raised funds by challenging police in a recent football game.

The future of the mounted unit and its horses - Blacky, Butch, Barney, Buster, Binx and Belle - still remains uncertain. If not budgeted next fiscal year, and city officials are warning of more cuts to come, more fundraising might be needed to keep horses on city streets.

Speakers on Wednesday noted that the unit is considered the oldest continuous mounted police force in the country, and the horses are used as much at parades and to be petted by children as they are to run down drug dealers on Pennsylvania Avenue and control large crowds.

Linda Bardo, who heads the Curtis Bay oversight committee, said a "horse and a rider is a perfect combination" and she didn't want to see this "fall victim to the recession."

The memo line of the donation check read: "More horses. Less cars."

Bealefeld noted that $5,000 isn't going to change the world but it's a testament to community and business leaders working together to help the city. "Family matters," he said. "Tradition matters."

Donations to the mounted unit came in from across the city - many sent in checks for $100, including a woman who included a snapshot of a dog gazing up at a police horse. A little girl in Baltimore County sold lemonade and raised $2,000. And a donor who wants to remain anonymous sent a check for $50,000.

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