Baltimore County officials proposed yesterday placing 28 additional officers in busy commercial corridors, and 16 more in high schools in a push to bolster two programs deemed effective in fighting crime.
The $2.6 million initiative was announced by police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan and Michael H. Davis, top aide to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. It would be paid for with $1.7 million in federal money and $855,000 from the county.
Davis said Ruppersberger has included the county's share in the 2000-2001 budget proposal he will unveil today.
The additional officers in commercial districts would mark an expansion of Business Patrol Initiative, a 2-year-old county program under which officers are stationed in eight districts with high crime rates, where they meet regularly with business owners.
Some of the 28 officers would augment coverage in existing zones, including Reisterstown Road near the Baltimore Beltway and Pulaski Highway east of the city line. Others would be used to set up new zones along Harford Road from the city line to East Joppa Road, and Philadelphia Road from Middle River Road to Rosewick Road.
The other 16 patrol officers would join the county's School Resource Officer program, which began in 1997. One officer is in place in each of 10 high schools. The expansion would mean that each county high school would have a resource officer.
Sheridan said he wanted to add officers to those programs because they have been successful.
"These are two programs we have been watching, [and] these are the programs that are working," Sheridan said. "
Sheridan said that in 1996, the year before the business initiative started, 333 robberies were reported in the eight business districts. Last year, he said, there were 189. He also said there were 17 percent fewer thefts last year than in the year before.
"It is about attracting people to do business in Baltimore County," Sheridan said.
Eric Barbour, manager of Car-Mal Shoes in the 500 block of Reisterstown Road, said he has noticed an increased police presence.
"I see them in their cars all the time," Barbour said. "That helps. They come in here and hand out some literature. I've never had a gun pointed at me, but I still worry. [Robberies] are something the police can't stop."
Davis said the county executive had planned to have officers in all high schools by the end of his term in 2002. "We are doing that two years in advance," he said.
The 16 school resource officers would be selected by precinct commanders. Graduates from the 110th academy class in June would replace them.
"The officers are not there for window dressing," Sheridan said. "They are there to make a difference. The officer in that school responds to calls for service. They work with the administration. If the kids don't feel safe in the schoolhouse, they don't learn."
A school system spokesman said there are other benefits.
"A lot of the impact has been in less tangible ways," said spokesman Charles A. Herndon. "The students and teachers feel safer."
The additional officers would bring the number of uniformed officers to 1,767.