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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 17, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 26
Citizens on Patrol Takes Its First Walk

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld and Edmund Skrodzki, executive director of safety and security at Homewood, join the first C.O.P. walkers.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Charles Village stakeholders join in crime prevention effort

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In a gesture of unity, Charles Village residents, Baltimore City police, civic leaders, elected officials and Johns Hopkins affiliates came together Wednesday evening to usher in Citizens on Patrol, a neighborhood watch program that seeks to reduce crime in the area and become a model effort for the city.

Some 40 people gathered on the corner of 26th Street and North Charles Street to honor the occasion and then take part in the first of what will become multiple citizen patrols a week in an area that stretches from 20th Street in the south to Union Memorial Hospital in the north.

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld was on hand to lead the walk and express his support for the C.O.P. program, which is a cornerstone of Mayor Dixon's crime-prevention efforts.

"You won't get a bigger affirmation of the mayor's public safety strategy than what you see looking to the left and right, and in front and behind you," said Bealefeld as he pointed to the large group gathered. "The core principle of that strategy is public engagement, and that is what we are seeing here today."

Bealefeld said that Citizens on Patrol represents "real action" and a commitment by the community to enhance public safety. He applauded those who came out for the first walk and those responsible for organizing the program.

"This is not the silver bullet or magic solution to crime in Baltimore," he said. "But what it does is it sends a message to the criminals, and all the other area residents who are not standing on the corner with us today, that there are people who care about this community — and that there are businesses, universities and other partners who are dedicated to making this community safer."

The Citizens on Patrol program is a collaborative effort of the Charles Village Community Benefits District, Charles Village Civic Association, Baltimore Police Department, Greater Homewood Community Corp., Union Memorial Hospital and The Johns Hopkins University. The Charles Village Community Benefits District will lead the program and host the training sessions for the walkers.

Starting this month, the program's participants will walk in groups of four or more to serve as a deterrent to crime and alert police to crimes in progress or suspicious behavior, such as one or more persons sitting in a parked vehicle for an extended period, or a lurker in a back alley. To report a crime in progress, the neighborhood walkers are being told to call 911, where their calls will be placed in a priority queue, and to phone 311 for nonemergency calls.

Residents, themselves, will determine the time and duration of the walks.

For its part, Johns Hopkins has been a staunch proponent of the program and has provided technical and administrative assistance to help make Citizens on Patrol a reality. As part of its future commitment, Johns Hopkins security personnel will help train the neighborhood walkers and also provide necessary supportive equipment.

Edmund Skrodzki, executive director of safety and security at Homewood, said that there have been neighborhood watch programs in the past, but what makes this effort different is the strong level of commitment from the partners and the fact that two neighborhood organizations--the Charles Village Community Benefits District and the Charles Village Civic Association--are taking ownership.

Skrodzki said that Johns Hopkins fully supports the program and will continue to provide whatever assistance is necessary for the program's success.

"I, myself, will be out there on some of these walks," he said. "We all have a common stake in all this--the safety of our community."

Dana Moore, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, said that JHU has been an instrumental partner.

"To be honest, this is happening because of Ed Skrodzki and Salem Reiner [the university's director of community affairs]," she said. "They firmly believed that this is what the community needed. I resisted at first, but they were persistent and made me come around."

Deputy Maj. Ross Buzzuro, who heads the Police Department's Northern District, said that there is a real need and purpose for such a program.

"It's no secret that you are the eyes and ears for the police," Buzzuro told those gathered. "What we have here tonight is just another positive sign that Charles Village wants to take ownership of the community, and we want to walk alongside you."

To participate in the program, contact Laura Coons, walker coordinator, at 443-224-7368. To take part in the upcoming walker training session, contact the CVCBD office at 410-235-4411.


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