Residents of a 2,500-resident apartment complex in Alexandria, spurred by recent violent crimes in their neighborhood, have asked the City Council to reinstate a police department program allowing officers to take cruisers home.
The council eliminated a one-year experimental take-home-car program in June because of its $230,000 cost and because crime deterrence was "minimal," according to a city manager memorandum. The program allowed officers living in the city to take home 20 cruisers when off duty.
The request was made in a letter written by Peggy A. Sklar, a resident of the Newport Village apartment complex in Alexandria's west end, and read to the council Tuesday night. The council scheduled a public hearing on the question for Oct. 15.
Sklar cited three rapes this year and other incidents as examples of a "dramatic increase" in violent crimes. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kathy Salvas said there have been four or five attempted abductions reported this summer in the neighborhood.
"We've had three individual rapists on the loose here since the beginning of January," said Sklar.
Criminal activity has led a third of the residents in the complex's 95 buildings and 42 town houses to participate in a Neighborhood Crime Watch program, according to Sklar. "They're very concerned. They're very angry," she said.
Residents said in the letter that they would like to see the program reinstated because "the presence of police cars in a community deters crime."
Police Chief Charles T. Strobel said yesterday the department is conducting a cost-analysis study on the program for the city manager.
Police departments in Prince George's, Montgomery and Arlington counties have take-home programs. Fairfax County and District of Columbia police do not.
Spokesmen for police departments that have the program said yesterday it is difficult to measure how much crime is deterred by the presence of a police car, but they said residents like the program. "It gives them a feeling of security," said Dave Celeste, who supervises Montgomery County's program. "A lot of it is psychological."
Sklar's letter also asked the city to pass safety standards on locks for patio and balcony doors, lighting and landscaping designs.