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Fighting Fear in Baltimore County - The Cope Project

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 55 Issue: 11 Dated: (November 1986) Pages: 12-15
C J Behan
Date Published
This article discusses the Baltimore County Police Department's (Maryland) Citizen Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE) unit, which identifies and reduces citizens' fear of crime using retrained police officers.
COPE began in July 1982. Each of 3 units is staffed with 13 police officers and 2 supervisors, for a total of 45 law officials. The COPE officers are trained in innovative problemsolving methods and in developing a close relationship to the community, with the goal of instituting crime prevention approaches to reduce fear of crime, especially among the elderly. A survey of several hundred people in Baltimore County revealed that respondents were afraid to go out at night, to open the door when someone knocked, to come out of a bank, and afraid to call the police to sign a complaint if they witnessed a crime or had a specific problem. COPE officers were equipped with motorcycles and compact cars to bring them closer to the community. As they drove slowly through an area, they were encouraged to stop frequently to greet neighbors and to allow children to become acquainted with the officers and their equipment. In one neighborhood, Garden Village, a low-income, predominantly black-occupied apartment complex located near Baltimore City, COPE officers initiated a two-pronged approach to community crime prevention: community interaction -- to open lines of communication and alleviate community problems -- and criminal intervention -- to gather intelligence information to coordinate with the patrol and detective forces in the department. Eventually, 11 agencies became involved in community crime prevention efforts, with a dramatic reduction in crime. COPE has also been instrumental in identifying community problems that might not normally come to police attention.