Howard police open a sixth satellite station in the county

Owen Brown Police Satellite Office expected to deter crime

July 11, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Police Officer Sarah Miller has already filled her new headquarters in Columbia's Owen Brown Village Center with large wall maps, informational brochures and community fliers, dozens of coloring books and a bowl brimming with lollipops.

After months on bicycle patrol, she knows her territory and now has a spot from which she can direct efforts to safeguard the village she serves.

"I wanted as many maps as possible," she said. "Owen Brown can be a confusing area geographically. And I wanted to be ready for the kids who will come in here. I had a mobile office, but now people can knock on my door."

Asked the exact dimensions of her new space, she said it is roomier than a Crown Victoria, which many of her fellow officers drive, and more comfortable than the seat of a bike, which she is keeping at the ready but is now in storage at the new station.

She will readily share the 500-square-foot space with those fellow officers, who might need it to write reports, make calls, schedule meetings or eat lunch, she said.

County officials staged a ribbon-cutting celebration at Howard's sixth police satellite office last week and invited the public in for a look. The location in a one-story brick building, behind the Giant supermarket in the village shopping center, is within walking distance of most of the area and surrounded by ample parking.

Craig Bruce and his son Connor, a soon-to-be seventh-grader, studied one large wall map of the village. The father outlined a bike trail for the son, showing the boy how he could ride all along the nearby lake. He said he felt more confident about safety with a more visible police presence.

"This satellite is a great concept," said Craig Bruce. "This physical police presence will really help."

Residents and businesses have long lobbied for the office. Monica Murphy, Giant's manager, said having a satellite station in her store's backyard will deter crime.

"Just the police cars in the parking lot will help keep crime down and criminals out," she said.

Maj. Gary Gardner said the county's five other satellite offices have created safer communities and helped reduce crime. Communities have seen as much as a 25 percent decrease in calls for service once such police centers opened, he said. Community police officers typically respond to burglaries, disorderly conduct, vandalism, trespassing and animal complaints, he said.

"We are talking about a reduction in what we call quality-of-life crimes that can unravel a community," Gardner said. "With an officer who is a familiar face embedded here, we will have constant feedback and we will see a significant change. Sarah will stay on top of the issues and reach out to the community."

Miller is already a familiar presence. She attends community association meetings, helps organize neighborhood watch programs and frequently visits the neighborhood schools.

County Executive Ken Ulman thanked the center managers for making the space available at no rental cost to the county. He praised Miller's work ethic and strong sense of community. He also complimented the Owen Brown community for its perseverance in advocating for a center.

"Sarah has been assigned here for a while, but now she has a home," Ulman said. "She is well trained in working with the community and working through the challenges. She is a true community resource."

Councilwoman Jennifer Terrasa, a Democrat who represents the district, said the center will serve as a resource for the community and help increase security.

"We have men and women officers to keep us safe," she said. "Now we will know where to find them."

    Baltimore Sun Articles
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.