Jones' legacy in Towson seen in university relations

When Baltimore County Police Department Capt. Al Jones is officially promoted to major and takes over as the area major for the department's Eastern Patrol Friday, Dec. 16, it will mark another step in a successful, 16-year police career.

But for the Towson community, where he has spent the past four years as commander of the Towson precinct, the departure will be a bittersweet one.

"We've gotten to know him so well, and any time you lose somebody who you've known well, it's a loss," said Janice Arcieri, a Stoneleigh resident who co-founded the Towson Area Citizens on Patrol in 2001 and currently serves as the group's secretary.

"Every captain we've had has been good, but he's been great," she said.

Jones, 42, points to his involvement with groups such as the Citizens on Patrol — and the lower crime rates in Towson — as huge positives of his four years at the local precinct, but nothing was more central to his focus than the issue of Towson University students and their parties in residential neighborhoods.

"When I first got here, I think the student issue was the top of the list," Jones said. "Every Monday morning when I got to work, my email was jammed with community complaints about the students partying over the weekend.

"I think working with the community, we have actually done a great job at not completely eliminated it, but at least slowing it down and working on the quality of life in the community," he said.

Many Towson residents agree.

"I think over the time period he's been there, it's definitely improved quite a bit," said Ed Kilcullen, former president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations and Towson Manor Village. "He demonstrated a real commitment to the communities and has been pretty responsive to our concerns."

Soon after he took over, Jones established an off-campus enforcement team — known to students as the Party Squad — which handled community complaints of parties as they happened.

Kilcullen said heavy enforcement by the Party Squad during the first few weeks of school "sets a tone right off the bat," and police presence during special occasions such as Halloween, homecoming, and Tigerfest have diminished the student-resident conflicts.

And while the problem will continue to surface every year when thousands of new students come to Towson, both Jones and Kilcullen point to this year's Tigerfest celebration as a hallmark of the harmony forged between the university, community and police department.

The university moved the event's location, tightened the rules, and held it on Friday night instead of Saturday.

Combined with a grant to the police department that allowed for more police presence at the event, Kilcullen said this year's Tigerfest "had the least negative impact on the neighborhoods."

"We were able to put …at one point, 27 officers out there dealing with the students, making sure they didn't disrupt the community," Jones said. "I know it had a great effect because I didn't get any complaints from the community.

"As a matter of fact, they were calling and thanking us for the things that we did throughout that whole weekend."

Marina Cooper, assistant to the president for external relations and communications at Towson University, said Jones' promotion to major is "well-deserved," in part because of his handling of the university and communities differences.

"One of his greatest qualities as a leader of the Towson precinct has been his sensitivity to the various needs of the community, and balancing that with working near and cooperatively with a college campus," Cooper said. "He's been a great asset to us, and we couldn't ask for a better partner in upholding the safety of our students and our neighborhoods."

Elsewhere in the community, leaders of Towson's active community policing organizations have similar praise for Jones.

Arcieri said Jones was "approachable, friendly and responsive" to Citizens on Patrol's every request, while Wesley Wood, director of the Towson Police Community Relations Council, said he did a "top-notch" job and seemed to always have the answers to his group's questions.

For all the compliments paid to the major by the citizens he served, Jones said Towson was welcoming to him when he arrived in 2007 — a sentiment that, in all likelihood, will extend to Jones' replacement, Capt. Jonathan Trentzsch.

"They love police here, and that makes it much easier to deal with the community," Jones said. "Getting into this industry, you have to want to help the community, and they make it easier because they're more receptive to police."

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