Police commander for Catonsville and Arbutus sees communication key to fighting crime

A new captain has taken charge of the Wilkens Precinct.

Capt. Douglas Irwin, a 20-year veteran with the Baltimore County Police Department who has spent the past 10 months as commander of the department's Internal Affairs Division, took the precinct's command on Oct. 22.

Irwin's previous assignments include positions at the Criminal Investigation Division, the Community Drug and Violence Interdiction Team, Criminal Intelligence, the 911 Center and the Patrol Division.

He's also been a firearms instructor and a member of the Hostage Negotiation team.

By the middle of his first day in office, Irwin had rearranged furniture, hung pictures of sailing ships and topped a jack o'lantern with his police cap.

More importantly, he'd met with his staff — many of whom he already knew — looked at the crime statistics and considered what areas are the "hot spots" in the precinct.

Irwin is no stranger to precinct work. One of his earliest assignments was at the nearby Woodlawn Precinct, where he was shift captain for three years.

A graduate of Liberty High School, in Eldersburg, the Community College of Baltimore County and University of Maryland, Irwin decided to apply to the Baltimore County Police after hearing about its good reputation

The new commander said he'll make fighting crime his top priority.

"I've been an investigator at every rank," Irwin said. "I'm a crime fighter first."

But, Irwin noted, that means more than making arrests.

"My focus will be on crime: preventing, solving and making sure people aren't afraid of crime," he said.

That means offering a conduit to necessary social services, assisting victims and gathering necessary information, he said.

Communication with the communities in the precinct is key, he said.

"We don't clear crime without community involvement. It's just that simple," Irwin said.

Irwin lives in Carroll County with his wife and two teenage children, and the family pets: a dog, two cats, two rabbits, and two goats.

A runner and swimmer, he has served as a torch bearer for the Baltimore County Police Department Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics.

For the past three years, he has been the team captain in a 195-mile relay race with other department members to benefit a nonprofit group helping the homeless population.

While serving as a Scout leader, Irwin led his son's troop on horseback to Philmont, Scouting's challenging hiking and camping site in New Mexico.

Earlier this year, he received the Baltimore County Police Foundation's Community Service Award.

Ready for new role

Irwin replaces Capt. John Spiroff, who just completed his 12-year tenure as Wilkens commander.

"I know I've got big shoes to fill," Irwin said of the man who held the post before him. "He left a very good turnkey station."

Spiroff said he believes he's handing off to Irwin "one of the best communities in Baltimore County."

And he offered a bit of perspective on what has been helpful during his time here.

Spiroff said he worked to maintain partnerships along the way, visiting with countless community organizations and meeting with business owners and business organizations.

He also sought to develop a good rapport with the area's elected officials and forge partnerships with new organizations as they formed.

If crime analysis indicated a problem, Spiroff said he would speak with members of the affected community to get their perspective and talk about his plans.

"When everybody is on board, you have a full commitment to make your strategies successful," he said.

A proponent of regional policing, Spiroff worked to developing relationships with police in Baltimore City and Howard and Anne Arundel counties, as well as police on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Spiroff, a Severna Park native, has spent 20 of his 30 years with county police at Wilkens.

"It was like this was my home," he said Oct. 18, his last day at Wilkens.

He served as captain in 1997 for four years before he was assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Joint Terrorism Task Force and then as director of the Maryland Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council.

A temporary assignment, he spent 18 months working with a variety of law enforcement officers to provide the resources they needed to prevent terrorist acts and respond if they occur.

It was good work and he could have stayed but when Police Chief Terrence Sheridan asked if he wanted to take over after Capt. Stephen Vaughn retired at Wilkens, he agreed. "I loved Wilkens, so I came back," he said.

Spiroff said he's going to miss the precinct but is eager to face the new challenges ahead. As captain detective of the Criminal Investigations Division, he'll focus on property crimes, cyber security, fraud and money laundering.

"Beginning Monday, I'll start to take a look at all that," he said. "I'm very happy (Chief Johnson) has the confidence in selecting me for that position."

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