Northern District police hold their annual ride-along and open house

Tasha Cornish sat in a police cruiser as an observer Friday, watching as the officer she was riding along with issued a man a citation for trying to dump trash into the Jones Falls.

"We caught this one guy in the act," said the 23-year-old east Baltimore resident, who works for St. Mary's Outreach Center in Hampden. "First he tried to say it wasn't trash.

Then, Cornish recounted, the man changed his story, saying that workers at Baltimore City's Sisson Street sanitation yard said he couldn't dump his trash there.

"I don't know what that was about," Cornish said.

She was one of 18 residents who joined Northern District police on their afternoon patrols as part of the Baltimore Police Department's annual ride-along and open house for citizens.

Residents returning from their three-hour ride-alongs were treated to pizza and sandwiches as they shared their stories of what they saw.

Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper, who reached her one-year anniversary as Northern District commander recently, gave the residents a brief overview of the district, its manpower with 170 officers "on a good day," and its current crime rates.

She said year-to-date felony crime is down in most categories, compared to last year for the same time period. But homicides have doubled, a figure that's partly skewed by cases in which a person assaulted last year died this year, she said.

Residents were pleased with the ride-alongs earlier in the day.

"It was very interesting," said George Sims, of Carroll County, who was visiting his daughter, Lisa Kelemen, of Mount Washington. They did separate ride-alongs, he said.

Sims, who rode with Officer Ferdinand Cintron, said that nothing much happened on Cintron's patrol other than talking to a man who was drunk in the street.

Nonetheless, he enjoyed listening to the police radio and watching Cintron work.

"It's good to see how (officers) protect the community," Sims said.

"You realize that a lot of patrols are monotonous — and then you get a call," said Stephen Gewirtz, of Charles Village. Gewirtz is active in the community Court Watch program to track court cases involving defendants who are accused of committing crimes in north Baltimore.

In addition to learning about police procedure, people who ride with police are getting good impressions of them, said Officer William O'Donnell, a community liaison.

"It's most important to impart that you are on the side of the community," O'Donnell said.

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