Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan met with members of the Precinct 6 Police & Community Relations Council Tuesday night to discuss crime trends in the region, state, country and world.
Sheridan, who replaced Chief Jim Johnson in January, is visiting precinct community groups throughout the county to reintroduce himself. Sheridan was Baltimore County's chief of police from 1996 to 2007, and was superintendent of the Maryland State Police from 2007 to 2011.
International, national and regional issues are connected, Sheridan told a group of 25 people at the First Lutheran Church of Towson. Heroin from Mexico and synthetic opioid drug fentanyl, made in China, make their way to Baltimore County, he said.
One of the biggest problems police are seeing today, in the county and across the country, is the overwhelming use of heroin, Sheridan said. In addition to deadly overdoses, heroin fuels other types of crime, as users need to get money to purchase drugs.
So far this year, there have been 77 fatal overdoses in Baltimore County, according to Sheridan. In the first quarter of 2016, there were 40 heroin-related deaths in Baltimore County, according to a state report.
"We've got to do more about it. We have to invest more in education and prevention, that's where it starts," Sheridan said.
Sheridan also touched on issues surrounding marijuana. Sheridan said that two out of 11 homicides that have occurred in the county so far this year two were connected to marijuana. Last year, eight out of 35 homicides were tied to marijuana.
"It's not a victimless crime, it's got a lot of violence with it," he said.
Another national issue county police face is unchecked mental illness, Sheridan said. He recently observed county police training regarding crisis intervention, as well as training in which police recruits learned how to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.
"Because of this kind of education and this kind of teaching, and the officers wanting this kind of education and training, I think we are going to be dealing with those people with a mental illness in a much much better way, where we don't have to escalate into a some kind of a confrontation that would result in someone being harmed," Sheridan said.
After discussing trends, Sheridan addressed questions about use of force, neighborhood disturbances and the county's body camera program.
Right now 350 body-worn cameras are being used by officers throughout the county, Sheridan said, and by the end of September he expects that number to increase to 1,435 cameras. That is in line with an accelerated program roll-out announced by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in October.
The cameras will be good for law enforcement, Sheridan added.
"[The camera] shows that the police are showing great restraint, and they're doing exactly what they've been trained to do," Sheridan said.
In addition to questions, two people also thanked Sheridan and county police in general for the work they do.
Wesley Wood, director of the Precinct 6 Police & Community Relations Council, said he thinks Sheridan did a spectacular job, covering a wide variety of topics in the roughly 30 minutes he had to speak. Sheridan left the meeting early to attend another police relations meeting in Parkville.
The Precinct 6 Police & Community Relations Council meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.. Meetings are typically held at the Hillendale Police Resource Center, located at 1055 Taylor Avenue.