There are plenty of jokes about police officers spending so much time at stores having doughnuts and coffee that they might as well set up shop.
Today, the Baltimore County police will do just that.
The county's first police community network center will open at a 7-Eleven store in the 4300 block of Annapolis Road in Baltimore Highlands. The store donated space and provided a desk and telephone for officers to write reports and make calls.
Mark T. Nevins, 7-Eleven loss-prevention manager for the Northeast states, said the company's cooperative program with law enforcement agencies is designed to keep patrol officers from having to leave the area when they need to do desk work.
But the "minioffice" will not be staffed around the clock.
"With the return of the officer to the beat in the 1990s, a substation is probably not what they want," Mr. Nevins said. "People want the presence of police on the street."
In Harford County, the sheriff's office has been given desk space in four 7-Eleven stores since last November. The program makes officers more accessible to the public, Mr. Nevins said.
Cpl. Kevin Novak, a spokesman for the county police, said officials will evaluate the center at a later date before deciding whether more will open. Mr. Novak said it will be available to all officers, who also will be able to distribute anti-crime literature there.
"Many times you will see an officer sitting in a car writing out a report and now they will be able to go there and do it," Mr. Novak said. "It's another great opportunity to get out to where the people are."