Northeast District "Safer Streets and Stronger Neighborhoods Community Forum" with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake • View presentation.
In 1999 the then-Commanding Officer of the Northeastern Police District, Major Art Smith and a police Lieutenant assigned to the Northeastern District, Mike Hilliard, met with the then Community Relations Director of HARBEL, Naomi Benyowitz, to brainstorm on how they could jointly work to prevent crime in Northeast Baltimore.
At the meeting the concept of forming a citizens’ patrol in Northeast Baltimore was born. In the model that evolved, a police officer dedicated to the Patrol operates its Command Car. The citizens patrol a designated area, normally the neighborhood they live in.
Citizens operate their personal cars with lighted signs magnetically affixed to the auto’s roof. Participants using push to talk cell phones communicate with the Command Car. Suspicious activity is relayed to the Command Car. The officer operating the Command Car either responds to the incident and rectifies the issue; summonses other on duty police from the patrol division to abate the problem, or records the information and relays it to the appropriate investigative unit for action. This eliminates the necessity of calling 911, and it results in a swift response to problems identified by Patrol members.
The concept of the NECOP was marketed to the communities within the target area. 18 decided to be a part of the NECOP. In January of 2000 the NECOP rolled out to the acclaim of the local media and elected officials.
The NorthEast Citizens’ Patrol has expanded to cover over 20 communities. It has over 600 members. It is now the largest existing COP on the East Coast.
Since 2000, over 14 years, no participating member of the NECOP has suffered any sort of retaliation for participating in the NECOP. Nationally, the National Association of Citizens on Patrol advises no participating member of a COP has suffered any sort of retaliation for participating in a COP.
The Patrol’s efforts have resulted in a 36% reduction in violent crime in Northeast Baltimore since 1999, and a 32% reduction in property crime in Northeast Baltimore over the same period.
Why should I participate in the NECOP?
Criminals are human beings. Human beings function best in environments in which they are comfortable. If a criminal is permitted to operate in an area for a period of time, the person will become entrenched in the area. If a criminal is shown the neighborhood finds his/her actions inappropriate, the criminal at the very least will move to another area.
The NECOP is a consistently visible outward sign from the neighborhood that the community will not accept criminal behavior. People patrolling their area in an overt manner clearly send a message to potential criminals that the neighborhood will not permit criminal activity within its boundaries. The NECOP patrols every Thursday, Friday, and every other Saturday night. We meet at the Northeast District at 1900 Argonne Drive at 7:30 p.m. each night.
Goals of the PatrolThe Patrol’s goals are very simple: serve as eyes and ears for the police in order to help prevent criminal activity and protect the community. Protocols have been established by the Northeast District Police and HARBEL. In addition to continual recruitment to increase the Patrol’s membership, goals for the year include expanding the geographic base of the Patrol. At present the Patrol’s focus concentrates on the communities from Pulaski Highway to Perring Parkway, and from Erdman Avenue to Taylor Avenue. The Patrol also includes the communities of Armistead Gardens and Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello. In the near future, the Patrol hopes to expand to the communities along the Loch Raven corridor and eventually include all the neighborhoods of the Northeast.
Another goal of the Patrol for the year is to interact more closely with the Victim Assistance Liaison (VAL). If an arrest is made in which the Patrol played a part, the communities have a vested interest in the outcome. Victims want to know their perpetrator has been punished, and communities want the assurance they are safe. As cases are presented for prosecution, VAL follows the case through the legal system and keeps the community informed. VAL will instruct the victim as to what to expect from the judicial process and offer any assistance or information.
Goals also include additional fundraising for equipment needed as the Patrol expands. To date, the Patrol has been the beneficiary of funds from the community to buy enough equipment to get it up and running. Expansion to the entire Northeast district will require a second communications tower to be erected to enhance radio contact. Informational brochures about the Patrol should be made available to those interested in volunteering or contributing. Monitoring the web site and providing updates as needed is also in the plans. Finally, a paid coordinator to ensure accurate and timely scheduling of volunteers is essential as the Patrol grows and expands its boundaries.