Officer Joseph Edward Lettau has spent the last 23 years patrolling the mean streets of Baltimore's Northwest District, a district with more than its share of shootings, stabbings, drug busts and other crime.
The 45-year-old father of five has seen bullets whiz by his head, one of them striking his partner during a shootout in 1986.
He's arrested men who've spat at him, and he can't even begin to recall the number of times he's had to worry about his safety.
So where does the man -- who grew up in the Irvington neighborhood in western Baltimore -- call home these days?
Like almost 1,000 other cops in the metropolitan region, he lives in Carroll County.
"When you work in the city, when you're a police officer, you're in constant contact with the criminal element," Lettau said. "You wouldn't believe the stress and tension an officer has to go through.
"It's wonderful to live somewhere where you can go to relieve that tension andstress."
For the last four years, Lettau has found Hampstead to be the place to go for relief from the daily grind. Incidentally, his last day in a patrol car in the Northwest District is Friday; next Monday, he will become one-third of Manchester's police department.
"I think I'm going to enjoy this," he said. "After 23 years down in the city, I am looking forward to being a part of the community here in Carroll County."
More than 1,845 of Lettau's 2,880 fellow Baltimore police officers live outside of the city; an estimated 400 live in Carroll.
Of the five-county metropolitan region, Carroll has thehighest number of law enforcement personnel per capita, according to1980 U.S. Census Bureau data, the latest available.
The actual numbers of police officers is low when compared to the general population; those census statistics showed them to equal just under half of 1percent of the county's residents. But it still was double the percentage in Baltimore and slightly higher than in the other counties.
Why police officers choose Carroll County as a place to live varies,but low crime, affordable taxes and distance from their jobs seem tobe the most important.
"I really enjoy the rural flavor of Carroll County," said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, the Baltimore County Police Department spokesman who has lived in Manchester since 1979. "It's close enough to Baltimore County, so I'm not far from work."
Besides being home to about 400 officers from Baltimore, Carroll counts among its residents about 163 Maryland State Police troopers, 230 officers from Baltimore County, 32 Howard County police officers, and even five officers from Anne Arundel County. In addition to them, more than 180 of the 216 law enforcement people who work in Carroll policeagencies -- including 63 of the state troopers -- live here.
Two nearby counties -- Frederick and Harford -- have strictly enforced residency requirements for their sheriff's departments.
"I like it for a couple of reasons," said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, the spokesman forHoward County's Police Department who recently moved to Sykesville. "The affordability of single-family homes and the slower pace of lifecome to mind.
"You don't necessarily want to live in the community where you work, otherwise you're always hyped up. I want to go hometo where I can be just a regular person."
A law enforcement officer is a middle-class wage earner, says AdAmbrose, a supervisor in theBaltimore Police Department's payroll department. "That's one of thereasons a place like Carroll County is popular. Overall, the housingcosts are cheaper out there."
The average salary for an experienced trooper or patrol officer in the region is just under $30,000, statistics show.
Carroll County has the metropolitan region's lowest property tax rate and, with the recession, some housing bargains.
Except for Baltimore and Baltimore County, Carroll has the lowest median housing price -- $126,700 -- in the region.
Its schools rankedthird in Maryland's recent skills tests, and the crime rate -- at under 2,000 crimes per 100,000 residents -- is the lowest in the region.
According to state police statistics, Anne Arundel's crime rate for every 100,000 residents through most of last year was 3,848; for Baltimore County, 5,000; Frederick County, 2,466; Harford, 2,768; Howard, 3,618; and Baltimore, 8,724.
"There's real peace and tranquillity up here," said Carroll County Sheriff John Brown, who has lived in Carroll since 1972. He commuted to Baltimore until he retired fromthat city's police force in 1977. "When I moved here, it was like a refreshing breath of fresh air."
POLICE WHO LIVE IN CARROLL, BUT WORKELSEWHERE
Jurisdiction ... ... ... ... ... ... No.
Anne Arundel ... ... ... ... ... ... 5
Baltimore City .. .. ... ... ... ... *400
Baltimore ... ... .. ... ... ... ... 229
Frederick ... ... .. ... ... ... ... 0
Harford .. .. ... .. ... ... ... ... 0
Howard ... .. ... .. ... ... ... ... 32
Md. State Police ... ... ... ... ... *100
NOTE: Frederick and Harford have in-county residency policy; * Estimate