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Public Safety – Without a Tax Hike

Public safety is still a big issue for our residents.

One in four of our residents still think that our city is not a safe place to live. Though there is slight drop in the county wide crime count, I’d assume that the public safety is still a huge concern among many of the residents.

While campaigning yesterday, I met a neighbor (name and location withheld), who was assaulted twice in front of her own house over the past two years  – the most recent one happening this summer. She also accuses the suspect with attempted rape.

Two days ago, I met another neighbor, living near the Route 1. This neighbor and others living in the area complained to me about frequent, very high noise from 3 hotels,  late in the night. This they think because of gangs fighting each other. They also complained to me that gang members and prostitutes chased by the police often enter the neighborhood. Residents living adjacent to the area feel extremely uncomfortable for being possible suspects in these incidents.

I live in the east Hollywood area of the North College Park. The Greenbelt metro is not very far off from my house. There have been quite a few incidents on assault on my neighbors coming from the metro after dark – none of my neighbors feel safe walking in the neighborhood after dark.

To address the public safety, our city mainly depends on the contract police. The city currently has 3 full time and 3 part time contract police. We pay them 1 million dollar per year from our tax dollars.

Speaking with the neighbors, I’ve this feeling that more should be done in the area of public safety in our area.

First and foremost, I think we should strengthen our neighborhood watch program. Community policing programs such as this not only improve public safety, but this also brings neighbors together, increasing the trust and confidence among the neighbors. More importantly, programs such as this are inexpensive, especially when we cannot afford to raise our tax dollars in this hard economic time. Our neighborhood Watch coordinator Kim Lugo, I think is trying to do her best, but she is one person, she needs a lot of help from the community. Kim and I met and talked last week on how to have more block captains in the entire neighborhood.

Speaking of the police presence in the neighborhood, I think we need to go beyond the contract policing program. The neighbor I spoke about first, called the police after she was assaulted. The contract police did come but 40 minutes after the assault happened. By this time, she could be dead.

Contract police may be the best program for the time being, but I think it’s about time to have long term goal of having our own police department. If many other small cities in the country have their own police force, why cannot we have our own? Many residents I spoke to, think having our own police will make them feel safer. There is a big difference in seeing two police cars, one with and and the other without the name of our city on them – there is certainly a psychological component in it.

Financing our own police force can be a challenging one. One thing I’m definitely opposed to, from the beginning – this shouldn’t happen at the expense of a tax hike from our residents. If I can remember correctly, we need about 3 million to start our own police force – remember we’re already spending 1 million for the contract policing program. The additional fund can come from other sources, such as the local and state grants. I’m sure the local businesses will have a vested interest in raising funds too. Once we have our own police force, members of our police department will generate additional revenues by contracting themselves out to other local events. We can also start a national online campaign to generate addition funds to help start our own police force; this will certainly set an example on the national front in starting community based policing.

I know these are all preliminary thoughts. There must be more comprehensive studies. We can do our own studies, and certainly need to take a look at the policing program in our neighboring cities, such as Greenbelt and Laurel, along with other similar studies done in other small cities in the country. It may take several years, but if we do not start now, it will never happen in future.

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4 Comments to “Public Safety – Without a Tax Hike”

  1. By Ayman Nassar, October 14, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

    Community watch programs and monitoring are very effective and do not cost much, they need a strong volunteer management system, and are easy to fund.

    Another program that should be pursued is a citizens academy, where the PG county police and College Park city police will train citizens on policing. This is something you should pursue and get support for, it costs pennies (maybe $20K a year) or so to train hundreds of citizens on the functions and roles of an officer. I attended the program at Howard county and learned a lot about, drugs, crime, arms handling, etc.. these citizens could then act as trained patrolling officers while commuting around, outside on their lawns and at their homes.

    You can also try the deployment of new technologies into the homes of residents, where one block captain can trigger an alert to all house in the block, which in effect could assist in identification of intruders and others breaking the law.

    I am sure Kabir will be able to come up with other innovative and cost effective approaches to limit crime.

  2. By Fazlul Kabir, October 14, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

    Ayman, Thanks a lot for your kind remarks.

    I think the police training program you mentioned is called the CERT program. This program has recently been introduced in our neighborhood – the county police has assigned one police officer, solely dedicated to this program. The current officer Melanie M. Senobio (301) 699-2950 is very active in the community. I’ve seen her coming to our neighborhood association, NCPCA’s meeting almost every month giving us advices and crime reports. As a matter of fact, I contacted her this morning about the drug and prostitution issues on Route 1 area that I mentioned in my blog.

    The automatic alert system using advanced technology is a very viable suggestion (thanks again for that too). I was speaking with one of our residents last week. Having been involved in the IT and engineering for many years, I have this feeling that deploying such technologies should not be a complicated thing to do.

  3. By R. M. Smith, October 14, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

    1 million dollars is, to me, a lot of money for 3 full time and 3 part time police. Especially if they are not meeting the needs of the community. Paying $60K apiece to 7 to 10 residents in the neighborhood (or to people who frequent the neighborhood) at strategic locations like by the subway and by those places of trouble along Route 1, with cameras, is a suggestion. Courtesy escort via walking or by calling in advance for a ride could also help, along with street cameras.