Where is the best place to find a cop in Baltimore? On the Westside, it might be between the fabric softener and the doughnut case.
The city's newest police substation opened yesterday in a 7-Eleven, allowing beat officers to write reports, make phone calls and greet the people from a podium next to the magazine rack.
"I liken it to banks opening up outlets in grocery stores," said Maj. Gary Lembach, commander of the Southwestern District station. "We are trying to be more accessible to the public."
Yesterday's grand opening at the convenience store at Edmondson and Swann avenues is a first for Baltimore.
The Southland Corp. has 19 police substations nationwide, including four in Harford County, two in Prince George's County, one in Baltimore County and several in Washington. Next month, it plans to open one in Arbutus.
"This gives people an added feeling of safety and well-being when they visit this location," said Nancy Wade, the store's regional marketing director.
Residents who live near the store, which serves Hunting Ridge, Ten Hills, Uplands and Edmondson Village, said they aren't afraid that the officers will neglect patrols in favor of free coffee and soda.
"It reminds me of a joke I heard years ago -- they should change 9-1-1 to 7-1-1 because you could always find a cop at a 7-Eleven," said Dave Michael, who has lived in Hunting Ridge for 22 years. "What this does is put a police presence closer to us and makes them visible."
Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who represents the neighborhoods and has lived there for three decades, said drug-related crime has increased over the years.
"I hope the station will help," she said. "Cops do come into the 7-Eleven and hang out. Maybe this will make us feel a little safer when we come in at night."
Company officials said that 1,000 to 1,200 neighborhood residents shop each day at the convenience store.
Last year, city officers responded to 132 calls there, from armed holdups to drunks. With this year not half over, officers have been called to the store for emergencies 77 times.
Police said the store's pay phone, bank machine and location on busy Edmondson Avenue make it attractive to a variety of customers and criminals.
Margie LaSorsa, a Southland Corp. official, said the Philadelphia Police Department opened a substation in 1987 next to a 7-Eleven store that had experienced 10 armed robberies the previous year. That number dropped to one with the police shop next door.
The company also has passed out questionnaires in prisons to ask why its stores seem to be targeted so often. As a result, it added security cameras, took down displays from windows so people could see in and out and lowered the height of shelves for increased visibility.
The 7-Eleven stores offer police officers use of the bathroom, free beverages and, depending on the store, doughnuts. With the substation at the Edmondson Avenue location, which is rent-free, officers will have a desk, telephone, copy machine and place to hand out crime-prevention literature.
"It's got to be a plus," said Paul Wareheim Jr., a Hunting Ridge resident since 1950. "We have a lot of crime and anything we can do to deter it is great."
Pub Date: 5/17/96