Police working to 'build security program' in Towson, chief says

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said Monday, May 20 at a Greater Towson Committee town hall meeting that despite Towson's rising crime rate, Towson and Baltimore County are safer than ever.

"We're working closely with the Chamber (of Commerce) and other developers in the Towson area to build our security program to … make it an inviting place for families," Johnson said during the meeting held at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology.

Earlier this month, Johnson announced the Towson precinct was the only one of Baltimore County's 10 precincts to experience a rise in crime in 2012 above five-year averages. Johnson attributed the increase to residential burglaries and thefts from vehicles.

On Monday, he acknowledged the higher-profile incidents, such as the melee outside the Recher Theatre in September 2012 and a pair of violent incidents that originated at Charles Village Pub.

"Those incidents did take place, but put it in perspective," Johnson said. "You're dealing with a half-dozen incidents in Towson, the entertainment heart of Baltimore County."

Johnson said street crime in downtown Towson is also lower than people may perceive.

"I certainly don't think we have that violent crime rate … that causes us to avoid an area," Johnson said.

Johnson spoke on a wide range of topics at the meeting, and took questions from the 20 people in attendance on issues such as gang activity in Baltimore County and cyber crime. Johnson said 25 officers are assigned specifically to fighting cyber crime, an increasing problem in the county made more difficult by the fact that perpetrators can be anywhere in the world.

Johnson also said that while dozens of arrests have been made as a result of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's efforts as a councilman to mandate security cameras at shopping centers, improvements to that program could be made to ensure the best technology is used and police get usable photos from the businesses.

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