DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: TRANSFER HABC POLICE AND DEVELOP COMMUNITY POLICING
Altogether, the agency will have spent approximately $13 million on ‘protective services’ in FY2000, which includes $9 million for HABC Police, $2 million for contract guards, and $2 million for agency-employed ‘building monitors.’ The operating budget pays for two-thirds of these expenses, or around $40 PUM.
Transfer policing functions to the City and develop community policing programs at targeted properties and reimburse City for such ‘extra’ services.
Cost Savings, Service Improvement
Estimated Annual Impact:
Initially, this recommendation should save HABC (conservatively) $4 million a year (or just under half of current expenditures on police services of $9 million). More savings would be achieved in future years as properties stabilize and the need for dedicated officers is reduced. These savings are in addition to the savings anticipated from the recommendation on privatizing property management.
Estimated Implementation Costs:
Minimal. Mostly transition costs.
Barriers to Implementation:
Possible opposition within the Police Department to community policing; possible reticence among public housing residents to see a reduction in the size of the police force, even if the new system would be safer and more efficient. Unlike the privatization of property management, it is expected that all of the HABC police that do not become assigned to community policing at family properties would be absorbed by the City police, where there are significant vacancies.
90 – 180 days
A transition plan should be developed, detailing how many officers are needed at each family property for community policing and the schedule for implementation.
The HABC Police force was established in the early 1990s in response to extraordinary crime levels in public housing, especially at the four large family high-rise properties ‘ Lexington Terrace, Lafayette Courts, Murphy Homes, and Flag House Courts. With the demolition of the family high rises (the last of which is to come down later this year), the agency no longer needs, nor can afford, a separate police department. While there are still many properties with high crime rates, these problems can better be addressed through both community policing programs and much stronger property management/lease enforcement.
It is important to note that these recommended organizational changes do not diminish the fact that HABC police appear to be quite dedicated, trained professionals.
Nationally, there is mounting evidence on the effectiveness of ‘problem-oriented’ or ‘community’ policing. The HABC should be able to both substantially reduce expenditures on law enforcement and increase the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts by shifting more to a community policing model and away from a model of ‘incident-oriented’ policing.
Currently in Baltimore, of approximately 100 sworn law enforcement personnel, only 18 are assigned to community policing programs (however, many housing managers contend that such officers are less regularly assigned to specific properties and are frequently pulled for other assignments). Primarily, HABC police are assigned to vehicle patrols for the east and west sides (there is no vehicle patrol for the south side). With three shifts a day and two posts (east and west), the practical reality is that officers can spend little time at any one property.
Exclusive of ‘Scattered Site’ or ‘Rehabilitated Housing’, the agency maintains approximately 8,000 family units. At an initial ratio of about one community police officer for every 150 units, HABC would need approximately 53 officers. (There would be no need for community police officers in the elderly buildings since they have building monitors). Under this recommendation, the agency would contract with the City for these dedicated officers, since this is a service beyond what is normally expected. In turn, these officers would either be supervised by a separate public housing unit within the City Police Department or report directly to the local station commanders.
As an example, Perkins Homes (688 units) would have between four to five community police officers assigned to it (688 divided by 150). Having these dedicated officers would result in far greater ‘presence’ than the current vehicle patrols. Community police officers would work hand-in-hand with housing managers and identify effective crime prevention strategies (including making sure the property is clean, well maintained, and free of graffiti and vandalism).
Under this model, the agency would no longer need to operate its own quasi-‘911’ service (in fact, many of these calls are property management related). The staff not needed for these community policing assignments would be absorbed by the City Police Department, which has large vacancies.
It is anticipated that the staffing patterns suggested above would be reduced in future years as conditions at the properties stabilize.
It should be noted that some officers prefer ‘enforcement’ over ‘community policing’, and vice-versa, and assignments should take this into account.