Capt. Jan Brown is no stranger to Towson.
Brown, who was named the commander of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Precinct 6 — aka the Towson precinct — in September, had served stints in Towson twice before in his 29-year career with county police.
Towson’s newest police commander replaces Jay Landsman, Jr. who was promoted to the rank of major in September.
Brown said he understands that the popular Landsman left big shoes to fill, adding that, as the precinct’s commander, he intends to continue Landsman’s policy of involving the community as a partner in the precinct’s policing initiatives, such as a steady involvement with community groups focused on fighting crime in Towson neighborhoods.
“I can see there’s nothing broken because Maj. Landsman was on the ball,” Brown said.
The 50-year-old Brown commands 128 officers and two civilian staff members at Precinct 6, which is headquartered in Towson and covers the central part of Baltimore County, from the Baltimore Beltway to the Baltimore City line between Falls Road and Perring Parkway.
Brown was chosen to lead the precinct because he is a capable commander who is familiar with Towson, Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan said in a statement.
“Captain Brown has the experience needed to lead the Towson Precinct and to continue building the positive relationships between the Police Department, the community and the area businesses,” Sheridan said.
Brown says he is “honored” by the appointment. Though the community’s involvement was a little overwhelming at the start, he’s started to fall into the swing of things and said he looks forward to working with neighborhood organizations.
“I’m becoming more and more aware of how big of a deal this precinct is,” he said, adding that Towson is like nowhere else.
“You’ve got the business leaders, politicians and the community involvement,” Brown said. “It’s a challenge because it means more people are coming in and you get pulled in different directions.”
Enjoying the job
Brown grew up near Essex and graduated from Eastern Technical High School in 1985.
In 1988, at 21, he joined the county police department and was assigned to the Woodlawn Precinct in the western part of the county as a patrol officer.
He rose steadily through the department’s ranks and in 1998 was promoted to corporal and assigned to the Towson precinct on patrol and to the Community Flex Team, which focused on curbing underage drinking.
He was next promoted to sergeant in 2001 and assigned for several years to the White Marsh precinct before returning to Towson as a lieutenant in 2004 to oversee the precinct’s Investigative Services Team, the Community Drug and Violence Interdiction Team, which focused on reducing violence and taking drugs off the streets, and the Community Outreach Team, a unit that developed strategies to promote crime prevention and community involvement.
Brown was promoted to captain in 2012 and assigned to the North Point Precinct before taking on additional duties in the Youth and Community Resource section, which worked with young people and their families with the goal of preventing crime and fostering positive interpersonal relationships and life skills.
In 2015, he was assigned to operations, which works with all Baltimore County police precincts, and in his last months in operations took on the additional duty of being the Safe Schools facilitator, a liaison between the police department and all of the county’s 173 schools.
Brown said he’s learned that managing and leading are two very different things and that the way one treats people matters.
“You have to do what’s right, which often is a tough thing,” Brown said. “You have to treat people how you want to be treated.”
During his rise within the police department, Brown attended college at night, heading from patrol right to his classes.
In 2001, he earned a bachelor’s degree in jurisprudence from the University of Baltimore and in 2007 a master’s degree in management from the Johns Hopkins University while working the midnight shift as patrol officer in White Marsh.
He thought of becoming a lawyer, but admits that he realized in his early 30s that he wasn’t cut out for the LSAT, the law school entrance exam.
“Plus I also enjoyed my job too much,” said Brown, who lives in Harford County near Forest Hill with his wife, Shelley Brown, and their three children, Logan, 14, Brooklynn, 10, and Jordyn, 8.
The most familiar problem from Brown’s previous time in Towson — underage drinking at a Towson night club — is no longer as much of an issue thanks to the targeted enforcement the department instituted in the late 2000s, he said.
The relationship between the county government, Towson residents and Towson University has also improved, he said, which he believes might be due to the Social Host Ordinance the County Council enacted in January 2016 to curb loud, off-campus parties and unruly behavior. Under the ordinance, gatherings of four or more people can be cited for behavior that disturbs the peace, with first-time offenders facing a $500 fine and 20 hours of community service while the landlord of the residence in which the gathering took place can receive a written warning.
County and university officials have said the ordinance is working and on Nov. 20, the County Council voted to extend the ordinance, which was set to expire in 2018, to 2022. In addition, the council voted to extend the ordinance’s reach to all areas encompassed by the Towson precinct, a change Brown said he supports.
In the meantime, other problems, such as robberies, burglaries and theft, still need attention, he said.
Brown said the precinct has seen an increase in break-ins since September along the city line on York Road. Vehicle thefts have also been rising, with more than half of the thefts related to vehicles left running with the keys inside.
Simple things like locking home and vehicle doors and calling in unusual activity are easy ways to prevent some of the crime that is prevalent in Towson, Brown said, such as items stolen from unlocked cars and stolen bicycles.
Brown also credits an active community as an ally in fighting crime.
“We solve a lot but we still get a fair amount [of crime] so we want to make sure to keep a handle on crime and keep a good balance between preventing the crime, solving the crime and working with the community,” Brown said. “The communities are really, really involved here. They’re on our side.”
Groups such as the Towson Area Citizens Patrol, a neighborhood watch group, and the Towson Precinct 6 Police and Community Relations Council help make the job of policing easier, Brown said.
At a recent meeting of the police and community relations council, Brown told members of the volunteer group that they were welcome to call him directly with any issues, something the group’s director, Wesley Wood, said brings welcome “continuity” to the council’s relationship with the precinct.
Recalling a Sunday email he got after Brown’s first week on the job about a suspicious car theft in Campus Hills, Wood said the new captain seems eager to solve citizen problems.
“That he took the time on a Sunday to give me that information — it was good to have that information quickly,” said Wood, a Campus Hills resident. “We get the feeling that he’s a very comfortable person to deal with.”
Pat France, the vice president of Towson Area Citizens Patrol, said she hasn’t had much time to get to know the new commander yet, but that the citizen group will be the “eyes and ears of the police” as long as the work is wanted.
“We had extremely good communications, cooperation and support from [Landsman] and the captain before him so we sure would like to have the same with this Captain,” France said.
In the end, Brown describes himself as “excited” to be back in Towson.
“There’s always some apprehension [to a newcomer] but I’ve been going to meetings and seeing familiar faces,” he said. “I look forward to working with the people of Towson.”