Baltimore County Now
Baltimore County Police Officer Michael Schmitz
School Resource Officer, Stemmers Run Middle School
Like a lot of police officers, one of the main reasons I chose this career was to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Looking back over my years on the force, one of the real highlights for me has been the Shop with a Cop program. For the past 12 years, on a Saturday in December, about 100 disadvantaged children are assigned a police officer, who picks them up in their squad car and accompanies them on a Christmas shopping trip to the Hunt Valley Walmart followed by a nice meal at Outback Steakhouse.
It all started back in the summer of 2001 when I was approached by my friend, Kim Coles, who works as a marketing manager for Outback Steakhoue. She told me about a great program called Shop with A Cop that a Virginia Outback was doing for Christmas, and she wanted me to start here.
The program motto is, “every child deserves a Christmas,” and as nice as it is to make sure a child has presents to open on Christmas morning, the really heartwarming thing is that most of the time, the officers have to basically force these kids to buy something for themselves. They are so intent on buying gifts for their Mom, siblings and other relatives, that they spend their whole $100 allotment. That’s when the officers usually pull out their own wallets and really give back.
I remember my first Shop with a Cop buddy, a young boy from a rough neighborhood whose mother was a recovering heroin addict. He was intent on buying gifts for his younger siblings and his mother. I added some more money to the equation and he bought some things for himself. When we headed back home in the police cruiser that day, I asked him how his day went. I’ll never forget his reply that “it was the best Christmas ever!” This is what a police officer comes on the job to do - make a positive difference. I often wonder if I was able to have a lasting effect on his life and what ever happened to that boy – he’d be about 16 now.
We started in 2001 with funds we raised ourselves and were able to include 25 kids. After the first year the Optimist clubs jumped on board and made the commitment to raise the money to fund at least 100 children each year and they have done that for 11 years, amounting to more than 1,100 children total so far. Baltimore County’s program is now the largest Shop with a Cop program in the state. The Optimist Clubs not only raise the money but they are also the cheerleaders for the children and police as they enter the Walmart to start their journey.
Over the years I have talked with police officers who have been a part of this event and ask them what it means to them. They all say they had a great time and several of them have continued to come back year after year. Officers have also told me that over the years, some of these children have approached them and said that prior to being a part of Shop with a Cop they didn’t like the police, but afterwards they saw police officers in a more positive light.
This year will be no different when the 110 police officers from all over the county show up to met their new friends (children) at their stations this Saturday at 0700hrs. During this short time we spend together with the children, we hope that it brings joy to them and their families, not just on Shop with a Cop day, but for years to come. Remember every child deserves a Christmas!
Police Chief James Johnson
When we talk about crime statistics, we too often overlook clearance rates – the numbers that tell us whether a police agency is doing a good job of solving crime.
Here in Baltimore County, our clearance rates are excellent, well above the national average.
In fact, the Baltimore County Police Department’s clearance rates are so good that the U.S. Department of Justice has featured BCoPD in a September 2013 publication, “Homicide Process Mapping, Best Practices for Increasing Homicide Clearances.”
This 54-page study examined seven law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. with outstanding homicide clearance rates, seeking to understand what these agencies are doing right. BCoPD is one of these model agencies.
The introduction to the study says, “Although the national clearance rate average has continued to drop, some individual law enforcement agencies have excelled in clearing homicides, with clearance rates of 80 percent and higher. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) wanted to understand how some agencies were so successful in their homicide investigations.”
Researchers from the Bureau of Justice Assistance visited our Homicide Unit to examine our staffing, management, resources and investigative strategies. The publication will be used by other law enforcement agencies interested in improving their homicide investigations and clearance rates.
In law enforcement parlance, “clearance” means that a case has been solved because the offender has been identified and either arrested, has died or the homicide ruled justifiable.
The DOJ study focused on 2011, a year in which BCoPD’s 83.3 percent homicide clearance rate far exceeded the national average (62 percent).
More recently, in 2012, the national clearance rate for homicide in 2012 was 62.5 percent. Baltimore County’s clearance rate was 95.7 percent.
Our clearance rate for all Part I violent crime – the most serious crimes, including rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – has exceeded the national average going all the way back to 1995.
Here are the most recent 2012 clearance rates for Part I violent crimes other than homicide:
• Rape -- BCoPD, 69.7 percent; national average, 40.1 percent
• Robbery – BCoPD, 48.4 percent; national average, 28.1 percent
• Aggravated assault – BCoPD, 84.1 percent; national average, 55.8 percent
In 2012, our clearance rate for all Part I violent crime – homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – was 71.9 percent, or 25.1 percent higher than the national average.
The clearance rates for property crime typically are lower than for crimes against people because there often is no contact between the victim and the suspects; detectives may not even have a suspect description to use during their investigation. Even with those challenges, clearance rates for Part I property crimes such as burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft were 14.1 percent above the national average.
What accounts for our success in clearing crime? The DOJ study answers this question quite well: “A stronger professional fabric, the investment of time and effort to build trust within the community, a willingness to challenge the status quo in performing investigative tasks and” – this last point is especially important – “a professionally developed and trained investigative workforce.”
BCoPD has worked hard over the years to give investigators the best technological tools, including skilled crime analysis personnel, forensics and other support services.
But the ability to solve crime starts and ends with hiring, training, retraining and retaining quality investigators – academically advanced law enforcement officers who understand that building a quality investigation is like crafting a fine piece of furniture. It takes time, care, precision and persistence.
The credit for Baltimore County’s outstanding crime clearance rates rests largely with our detectives and patrol officers. The work our investigators are doing is as good as, if not better than, that of any agency in the nation. I hope that our citizens are as appreciative of this as I am.
Baltimore County Police Department
Summer is one of our favorite times of year to kick back and relax, but remember — criminals are always on the move. Warm weather may bring more foot traffic to neighborhoods and business districts, but it also brings more criminals looking to commit their next offense.
Don’t get the “summertime blues” — use these common sense measures to help prevent crime at your home or business.
Warm Weather Crime Prevention Tips
- Beware of Deception Burglaries and Home Improvement Scams
Be proactive: protect your property.
- Lock All Doors and Windows
Lock windows and doors when you’re away. If you’re going to be in the back yard, lock the front door.
- Burglars Shun Good Locks and Lights
Consider installing specialty locks, which often deter thieves.
- Neighborhood Awareness: The Key to Crime Prevention
Be alert and aware; always notify police of unusual activity in your community.
- Windows Open and Convertible Tops Down - An Open Invitation to a Thief
Avoid thefts from your vehicle with these simple tips.
- Got a Bike? Engrave It, Lock It or Lose It
Have your bike engraved, and don’t forget to lock it.
- ATV Education and Enforcement
Tips to help you keep it legal, ride safely and prevent theft.
- Fraud Often Follows Disasters
Don’t fall victim to a scam after a bad storm. When disaster strikes, people are sometimes vulnerable and become good targets for identity theft or scam artists.
- Stay Alert
Witnesses can be a valuable deterrent to a burglary.
- Spring Cleaning
Businesses should get rid of clutter and evaluate (or create) their safety and security plan.
- Hiring Summer Help
Business managers —fill that position with a qualified new employee.