The Baltimore City Police Department employs more people than any other department of city government, yet most of its officers live outside the city. Many residents like the idea of police officers living in their communities because they view them as a deterrent to crime and because they believe officers would have a better understanding of neighborhood problems if they had homes in the area. But if Baltimore hopes to encourage more officers to live where they work, it must develop more effective strategies for getting and keeping them here.
A recent report by the
The Abell report argues that even a modest increase in the number of officers living in the city could improve public safety in their neighborhoods and foster better relations between the department and local residents. More city-based police officers would also advance Mayor
Persuading city police officers to live and raise families in the communities they serve has never been easy, however. Part of the problem involves officers' concern that they or their families could be targeted for retribution by people in the neighborhood whom they have stopped or arrested. Many officers are uncomfortable living in places where they are likely to have casual, nonprofessional encounters with the public they police, and they are particularly reluctant to live in high-crime areas where they could potentially be "on duty" all the time.
Police officers regard themselves as professionals who want the same things for their families that other professionals want: a safe, pleasant environment in which to make a home, good neighbors and excellent neighborhood schools to educate their children. Most officers don't believe they can afford private school tuition, but they value education. That is one of the main reasons they often prefer suburban schools. But at least some of them might be persuaded to move to the city if, in addition to housing incentives, it offered education benefits for their children, such as preferential admission to public charter schools or tuition subsidies at private and parochial schools.
The Abell report's findings suggest there are many communities in Baltimore that could be made both attractive and affordable to police officers, especially younger members of the department and new recruits. Moderate-income neighborhoods such as