xml:space="preserve">

Mount Airy residents could soon see a new police force patrolling the town's streets.

At a public hearing scheduled for Jan. 11, the Mount Airy Town Council will discuss replacing the town's current contract with the Maryland State Police with a municipal force.

Advertisement

Mount Airy currently contracts with the Maryland State Police Resident Trooper Program, which supplies the town with five officers responsible for making traffic stops, patrolling the town and responding to 911 calls. The increased cost of sustaining that program though — the program's budgeted cost rose from $702,000 in 2012 to $900,998 in the current year, according to documentation from a study conducted by town officials — has driven officials to consider other possible options, said Mount Airy Mayor Patrick Rockinberg.

In the past, he said, the town explored other options for policing, but the cost of the trooper program fell and the issue was tabled. Now, it is time to really consider the matter, Rockinberg said.

The results of the town's study into the costs of retaining the trooper program and beginning a local force will be presented to the public at the January meeting, Rockinberg said.

"My point of view is it's pretty obvious," said Rockinberg, who said that the best option, to him and to other officials, appeared to be the creation of a municipal force.

"It's not that it's a bad program," he said of the resident trooper agreement. "It's a good program. I just think we can do better."

In addition to the question of rising costs, another factor in the council's decision to take on the issue of policing has been what seems to some like a shortage of officers and a high rate of turnover in one of the area's largest municipalities, according to Town Council President Peter Helt.

In recent years, Helt said, the program has seen a high rate of turnover that concerns some town officials. Officers are being transferred out before they even get a sense of direction around Mount Airy, he said.

He also said he'd like to see more officers around Mount Airy. Ideally, he said, he'd love to see about 10 officers assigned to the town.

"The more, the better," Helt said.

While transitioning away from the resident trooper program could come with a big price tag in the first couple years of implementation — $935,216 in total, according to the town study — Helt said the research done by the town shows that the costs will even out over time and, eventually, maintaining the town force will cost less than maintaining the state police program. Once the town force is established and operating, the town study indicated the yearly cost would be $701,290.

In a town whose boundaries cross county lines though, policing can be a complicated matter, Helt said, adding that there could be issues regarding jurisdiction if the town contracted with Carroll County or Frederick County for police services. But it's worth considering all options available, he said.

"We're breaking new ground," Helt said.

Sgt. Marc Black, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Police, said the department had no comment on the Mount Airy situation. Lt. Patrick M. McCrory, commander of the Westminster Barrack, will be at the meeting, Black said.

Advertisement

410-857-3315

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement