Prince George's County police announced plans yesterday to form a unit of "highly trained" police officers who will target high-crime areas and also neighborhoods where residents are most fearful of crime.
Police Chief Michael Flaherty and County Executive Parris Glendening said the new 27-member unit is part of "Project ACTION" -- the acronym for Attacking Crime Through Involvement of Neighborhoods -- a $2.5 million expansion of the department's anticrime programs.
The expansion calls for the hiring of 25 officers in fiscal 1987, which begins July 1. Officers in the new unit, the centerpiece of the anticrime package, will be chosen from among the force's veterans.
Glendening said it became clear the new unit was needed when county residents, in a recent survey, ranked fear of crime second to quality of education as chief concerns. An overall expansion of anticrime programs was necessary, Glendening said, because crime in Prince George's rose 9 percent in 1985 after a four-year decline.
"To deal with crime," he said, "we have to deal with people."
Three teams of nine officers -- who will work on foot or motorcycles -- will be assigned to the northern, central and southern parts of the county, each of the force's command divisions. District commanders will assign officers to specific neighborhoods.
Maj. Larry Shanks, commander of the southern area, said ACTION officers will serve as backups to regular officers who don't have time to stay in an area until a problem is solved. Shanks said he might use the new officers to help stem fears in neighborhoods hit by a rash of burglaries. "It will give me a larger pool of people to draw from," Shanks said. "And they will be able to remain there until the problem is solved."
Flaherty said that, for example, ACTION officers might have been used during disturbances earlier this year at Crystal Skate Rollerskating Rink on Branch Avenue. After a concert at the rink ended at about 3 a.m., a melee occurred, leaving one teen-ager shot, one stabbed and one hit by a car.
"The traditional police response is to come in and arrest," Flaherty said. "But that does not resolve the problem." With the ACTION team, officers could not only make arrests, Flaherty said, but also could talk to business owners in the area to get suggestions on how to deal with problems.
Funding for the additional officers and expanded anticrime programs must be approved by the Prince George's County Council. Tim Ayers, a spokesman for Glendening, said the county executive expects the council to approve the funding.