Police Safe Zone program is singled out for award

The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore Police Department community program begun last year to help neighborhoods troubled with shootings and homicides was recognized yesterday as a finalist for a policing award at an international conference in Boston.

The program, dubbed Operation Safe Zone, was named a top ten finalist for a "quality in law enforcement" award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Lt. Col. John P. Skinner, a Baltimore police commander and one of the program's creators, said the Safe Zone project was deployed in five neighborhoods last year and in 25 neighborhoods so far this year.

The program lasts one month and has four parts, Skinner said. First, police flood a 10-square-block area with officers and erect barricades to discourage drug buyers from driving into the area. Second, city agencies concentrate on problems in the area, such as fixing broken streetlights, cleaning streets, and boarding vacant houses, Skinner said.

Third, city and private agencies come into the neighborhood and offer a range of social services and other resources. Lastly, the Police Department organizes community events to help foster better relations between residents and police and other agencies.

After the program was completed in the five neighborhoods last year, Skinner said, homicides and shootings declined by nearly 86 percent in the following six months.

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