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New Northern District commander brings 'focus' to post

Wants her officers to target hot spots and juveniles

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com

9:15 AM EDT, August 5, 2013

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Major Kimberly Burrus, the Northern District's new commander, wants what you want: to feel safe from crime in Baltimore.

"I am a city resident," said Burrus, 40, a 13-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department and a first-time commander. "I was born and raised in the city. I should be able to walk out my door without getting a gun stuck in my face."

Burrus succeeds Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper, who was Northern District commander for two years and now heads the police department's Special Investigations Section. Growing up in west Baltimore, Burrus sang with Tapp-Harper in the choir at New Metropolitan Baptist Church, and when Burrus started her career as a police officer in the Eastern District, Tapp-Harper was her supervisor.

Burrus said she and Tapp-Harper have stayed in touch as they rose through the ranks. Most recently, Burrus was captain in the Southeast District and deputy commander for seven months until Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts in July promoted 15 commanders, including Tapp-Harper, and installed four new commanders of patrol districts, including Burrus at the Northern.

Focus on hot spots

In her new post, Burrus said she brings a different focus to the Northern District. She is concentrating on pockets of crime in the district and on apprehending juveniles, who are believed to be mostly responsible.

That focus entails going into neighborhoods known to be hot spots of crime at any given time — most recently in the Lake Evesham area — and targeting teenagers, who commit many of the robberies, burglaries, car thefts and larcenies from auto that are the most prevalent categories of crime in north Baltimore.

Burrus called it a "zoning" concept, prompted by statistics and "public outcry."

"I focus a lot more on the intelligence we get back from the community," she said.

Compared to other districts in the city, "Northern has smaller, concentrated areas of crime," such as robberies in Charles Village and property crimes in Hampden, she said in an interview at the Northern District headquarters, 2201 W. Cold Spring Lane, on July 31.

"We do have a juvenile problem In Charles Village," she said.

At a meeting of the Northern District Community Council late last month, residents alerted police to a rash of car break-ins and other property crimes in Lake Evesham in the York Road corridor.

"They're experiencing the same issues that Hampden has," Burrus said.

Her intelligence is that many of the crimes are being committed by teenagers and young adults as old as 23. She lumps them together as "juveniles," and said her definition of a juvenile is no longer limited to those under 18.

"They're not just stopping at 18," she said. "For me, (the definition) has expanded."

Burrus hands officers a weekly "focus sheet," that tells them where to concentrate their efforts and who to be on the lookout for.

"I have the officers a little more focused," she said.

Strategic manpower

She is also trying to use manpower more effectively in the face of a limited budget, so as to allow her officers to maintain that focus by not spreading themselves too thin. The district is authorized for 160 officers, but is down 11, mostly due to medical leave, and she is not expecting to be able to add more officers to be at full strength.

Instead, Burrus said, she is adopting a strategy from her time in the Southeast District, dispatching certain 911 calls to desk officers, rather than to police officers on the street.

She also encourages her officers to pass out photos of suspects to community leaders.

"The point is, I can use my officers on the street to be more focused, more productive," Burrus said. "I don't think there's any fictitious cavalry that's going to save us. Some of those things are beyond our control. I just think it's working more strategically with the officers you have."

Burrus said her focus fits her personality.

"I'm a very targeted person," she said. "I need to know who my players (suspects) are, and focus directly on them and their associates. The more you know about an area and the crime players, the better decisions you make."

She said she is "passionate" about policing, and won't settle for status quo, such as a homicide rate that is "dead even" when compared to the rate last year at this time.

"I feel like if it's dead even, I haven't done my job," she said. "I want to see a decrease."

She is also passionate about protecting her home town.

 "I just happen to be in a position to do something about it."

When asked what she wants people to know most about her, Burrus said, "You have a new commander that cares and is passionate about fighting crime in your area."