We're perplexed by county Police Chief Robert Russell's plan to take over security at Anne Arundel Community College. Given that residents want more protection, money is tight and campus crime minimal, one would think this added responsibility would be the last thing he'd seek. Yet AACC President Tom Florestano, who wants out of the security business, has convinced him and County Executive Robert R. Neall this is the way to go. If the County Council approves it, a lieutenant, a sergeant and three officers -- about $150,000 worth of salaries -- will be patrolling and making arrests full-time at AACC.

No one knows for sure what will happen to the existing 16 college security guards. Chief Russell says some of them may be let go. College officials and the county executive's office say a majority of them -- if not all -- will remain college workers, taking care of routine tasks such as escorting students and checking doors and windows.

Does the college need all this manpower? No major crimes have rocked AACC. There have been virtually no arrests in the last year, compared with about 25 annually at comparably sized Prince George's Community College. A purse-snatching and an assault were the most serious incidents.

To be sure, safety cannot be taken for granted with 38,412 people concentrated on 230 acres and a major expansion of the junior college in the works. A security force without arrest powers may no longer be adequate. But before the council sends in county police, it ought to ask if this is the best way.

No college in the area handles security via county police. Other local police departments say they wouldn't want to get involved, both from a standpoint of resources and liability. A county's pockets are much deeper than a college's; by establishing itself as a security presence, the county could become the central target of campus lawsuits. Most larger campuses have their own police forces, academy-trained with full arrest powers, but employed by and assigned exclusively to the college. They know the college inside and out, so they know where to refer students for on-campus help. And they're a lot cheaper than county police.

Creating an AACC campus police force seems to make much more sense than deploying more expensive county cops who are needed elsewhere. Why has this not been considered?

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