More pa­trols set for nights

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - Down­town Part­ner­ship to pay Bal­ti­more po­lice for ad­di­tional of­fi­cers By Yvonne Wenger

The non­profit Down­town Part­ner­ship wants to pay city po­lice to add more nightly foot pa­trols around the In­ner Har­bor un­der a pro­posal Bal­ti­more of­fi­cials are ex­pected to ap­prove to­day.

The agree­ment — which calls for three ad­di­tional of­fi­cers and a sergeant to re­ceive over­time pay to be sta­tioned down­town be­gin­ning at 6 p.m. daily — has sparked a de­bate over how po­lice are de­ployed across the city and who should pay.

Gene-Michael Ad­dis, gen­eral man­ager at the Lord Bal­ti­more Ho­tel near the in­ter­sec­tion of West Bal­ti­more and South Charles streets, said city po­lice are un­der­staffed, leav­ing of­fi­cers scram­bling to re­spond to “hot-but­ton is­sues” across Bal­ti­more’s 92 square miles.

“Safety is as much a per­cep­tion as it is a re­al­ity,” Ad­dis said. “If you’re an out-oftowner or a res­i­dent down­town, see­ing of­fi­cers on foot, in their car or on a bi­cy­cle gives you an en­hanced sense of se­cu­rity.”

The Down­town Part­ner­ship will spend up to $200,000 through the spring from a sur­charge it col­lects on the 1,200 prop­erty own­ers in its 106-block area to pay for the ad­di­tional po­lice pro­tec­tion.

The agree­ment would take ef­fect im­me­di­ately, pend­ing ap­proval by the Board of Es­ti­mates.

Coun­cil­man Bran­don Scott, vice chair­man of the public safety com­mit­tee, said the mat­ter raises a decades-old ques­tion about the eq­uity of how Po­lice Depart­ment re­sources and staffing are al­lo­cated to dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods.

Po­lice sat­u­rate cer­tain low-in­come neigh­bor­hoods with typ­i­cally higher crime rates, leav­ing mid­dle-class ones with­out a fair share of re­sources, Scott said. A po­lice dis­trict map drawn more than a gen­er­a­tion

“Safety is as much a per­cep­tion as it is a re­al­ity. If you’re an out-of-towner or a res­i­dent down­town, see­ing of­fi­cers on foot, in their car or on a bi­cy­cle gives you an en­hanced sense of se­cu­rity.” Gene-Michael Ad­dis, gen­eral man­ager of the Lord Bal­ti­more Ho­tel

ago is partly to blame be­cause it does not ac­count for which neigh­bor­hoods are most densely pop­u­lated to­day and which ones have the most calls for ser­vice, he said.

Scott said he is seek­ing part­ners in the Gen­eral Assem­bly to push for chang­ing the sys­tem for how the city’s roughly 2,300 of­fi­cers are de­ployed. Such a change re­quires leg­isla­tive ac­tion.

The coun­cil­man said he also wants to see phil­an­thropic groups step for­ward to help neigh­bor­hoods with­out re­sources sim­i­lar to down­town’s pay for more po­lice cov­er­age.

“We have to fig­ure out how to em­power other or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide the sup­port when nec­es­sary,” Scott said.

Other groups do buy ad­di­tional po­lice pro­tec­tion for both spe­cial events such as Ravens and Ori­oles games and reg­u­lar cov­er­age, in­clud­ing the Charles Vil­lage Com­mu­nity Ben­e­fits Dis­trict.

Po­lice spokesman T.J. Smith said sim­i­lar ar­range­ments are com­mon­place in polic­ing. Some groups use third-party con­trac­tors that hire only off-duty po­lice.

Smith said the agree­ment will not de­tract from any po­lice obli­ga­tions in the city, be­cause any of­fi­cers who take the shifts do so as sec­ondary to their work du­ties.

“This is a rou­tine and com­mon sense thing,” he said in an email. “A group comes for­ward and wants to pay for ex­tra cov­er­age and we ac­com­mo­date if we can. But it’s a win-win if we can in­crease public safety with­out in­cur­ring ad­di­tional costs.”

The five-page agree­ment says that “the city has ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease in crime with the bound­aries of Eutaw Street, Gay Street, Lom­bard Street and Fayette Street” and the Po­lice Depart­ment’s “cur­rent staffing lev­els and bud­get are not suf­fi­cient to de­ploy ad­di­tional ded­i­cated of­fi­cers in a foot pa­trol ca­pac­ity” in that area.

Three of­fi­cers and a sergeant would be paid over­time rates of $45 and $50 an hour, re­spec­tively, to pa­trol down­town from 6 p.m. to mid­night Sun­day through Thurs­day and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fri­days and Satur­days.

A re­view of city crime data down­town shows rob­beries have steadily in­creased to 225 so far this year, com­pared with 129 as of the same date in 2013.

Kirby Fowler, pres­i­dent of the Down­town Part­ner­ship, said the agree­ment is not the re­sult of an in­crease in “vi­o­lent crime” down­town. He ac­knowl­edged “the oc­ca­sional steal­ing of cell­phones and some in­ci­dents out­side of night clubs, like peo­ple fight­ing.”

But, he said, the im­pe­tus be­hind the agree­ment is the ad­di­tion of new apart­ment build­ings and ho­tels down­town, such as the 10 Light apart­ments and the Delta Ho­tel by Mar­riott set to open soon near South Charles and Red­wood streets.

“If we’re go­ing to in­vite peo­ple into this space, we have to make sure we have a per­cep­tion and re­al­ity of safety,” Fowler said. “It’s time for us to have more cov­er­age.”

Fowler said the part­ner­ship’s guides pa­trol the area un­til 11 p.m. Rather than ex­tend­ing their hours, he said, “we thought it was more im­por­tant to have a po­lice pres­ence.” The guides have safety train­ing, but no ar­rest power, and they carry no weapons, he said.

If the ini­tia­tive is a suc­cess, Fowler said, the part­ner­ship would look to the prop­er­ties down­town to pay for it to con­tinue be­yond March or April.

Coun­cil­woman Mary Pat Clarke said she wants to see the Po­lice Depart­ment pay for at least a cou­ple of hun­dred more of­fi­cers to pro­vide bet­ter cov­er­age across the city. She sup­ports the part­ner­ship’s agree­ment and those like it be­cause it adds to po­lice pro­tec­tion with over­time ser­vice with­out de­priv­ing any neigh­bor­hoods of pa­trols.

“Ev­ery­one should have this kind of pro­tec­tion,” said Clarke, adding that the city should find a way to pay for ad­di­tional po­si­tions “so there are more po­lice of­fi­cers through­out the city of Bal­ti­more.”

Doug Ward, the di­rec­tor of the Di­vi­sion of Public Safety Lead­er­ship at the Johns Hop­kin­sS­chool of Ed­u­ca­tion, said al­low­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions to hire po­lice for ad­di­tional pa­trols is com­mon­place across the coun­try. He said of­fi­cials must be mind­ful that the Po­lice Depart­ment does not de­plete its reg­u­lar-duty re­sources to col­lect pay­ments for ad­di­tional ser­vices.

“It’s a fine way to re­lieve the tax­payer of the bur­den,” Ward said.

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