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Towson police commander looks back on first year in job

TheftSt. Joseph Medical CenterSheppard Pratt Health SystemDavid Marks

In his first few months as commander of the Towson precinct, Capt. Jonathan Trentzsch spent much of his time wading through the layers of his new post.

Police work is police work no matter where, Trentzsch contended, but he knew that a key to doing his new job well was learning about his officers and, more importantly, the community they policed.

Towson's web of neighborhood associations, businesses, government buildings, hospitals and universities presented Trentzsch with a slew of names and phone numbers — all of which were essential to policing the Towson area.

Now coming to the close of his first year as commander, Trentzsch knows he need look no further than Towson's most visible and highly publicized incident — a large, unruly crowd that arrived for an independently promoted party at the Recher Theatre — to see the benefits of the relationships he has begun to develop.

"The fortunate thing for me is that came so far in my new year, I'd already developed the rapport with all those people," Trentzsch said.

He had met with local bar owners, including those in charge of the Rec Room, the restaurant at Recher Theatre, just weeks before the late September incident to discuss crowd control and underage drinking. In an effort to understand the at-times times tenuous relationship between Towson University and the communities that surround it, he had attended monthly meetings at which leaders of both camps met to discuss pertinent issues.

"It helped me, having those relationships already, to get on the phone and say 'Hey, what do you hear? This is what I've got; this is what we're doing.' That's the nice thing about being here a year. When you're there that first few months, it's 'Who do I call?' … You may know what to do, but it's hard to figure out who I call to get the right message out," Trentzsch said.

Likewise, Trentzsch maintains an open line of communication with most of Towson's community associations and Citizens on Patrol groups. These groups, he said, are very in tune with what's happening around them and help keep him and his officers on their toes.

"I hold my people accountable," Trentzsch said. "I want them to know what's going on, and the community holds us to the same level."

Issues provide learning experiences

County police provided data comparing the first six months of 2012 with the previous five-year average also of the first six months. Though crime was down in many categories, thefts, robberies and sexual assaults all rose.

For the first six months of 2012, theft in the Towson precinct rose by 178 cases, but Trentzsch said even that provided an opportunity to reach out to the community and involve Towson's stakeholders in lowering crime. Trentzsch said information about crime trends such as car break-ins and thefts from cars were sent out by automated phone services, email trees and the local community associations.

The message was relatively simple: Locking car doors helps prevent theft.

"Some of the (citizens in) areas in Towson still feel like they're out in the country and they don't lock their cars," he said. "There's issue after issue."

Trentzsch's knowledge of the Towson community has already born fruit.

When the incident at the Recher Theatre occurred in September, Trentzsch had already added three officers to the downtown Towson area.

Subsequently, officers on patrol in Towson last month were able to stop and arrest a man just after he fired shots into a crowd after an early-morning altercation that began outside Charles Village Pub.

The learning curve continues.

Trentzsch said his department is reviewing its guidelines for handling prisoners after an incident in which a prisoner in police custody who was receiving treatment at a Towson hospital was able to wrestle an officer's gun out of her hand and fire the weapon.

The incident led Trentzsch to notice differences in how Towson's three hospitals — St. Joseph, GBMC and Sheppard Pratt — run their security programs, and he reached out to review plans with officials at all three.

"Overall, we could do better, but I thought we had a pretty successful year," Trentzsch said. "I give the credit to the officers and the supervisors who work for me. We've got a good group."

"I think he's done an outstanding job in that position," said Councilman David Marks, who represents the 5th District, including Towson. "He's trying to address security needs in a time when the budget's very tight. I particularly like what he's done with the bike patrols, and I think he's been a very responsive leader for the Towson precinct."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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TheftSt. Joseph Medical CenterSheppard Pratt Health SystemDavid Marks
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