Voters in Bowie and College Park agreed yesterday that the cities should form their own police departments rather than continue to contract with Prince George's County, whose force has been stretched thin by soaring crime.
"It's a great day for the residents of Bowie," said Len Lucchi, head of Citizens for Bowie Police, a group formed to advocate for a separate force. "The next task is to make sure the council moves expeditiously in setting up the department."
Lucchi, a longtime Bowie resident, said he had never seen an issue dominate a city election as police protection had this year.
Nearly three-fourths of those who cast ballots in Bowie voted for the creation of the city force. Voters in College Park agreed to break from the county's police protection by a far narrower margin as they also reelected their mayor and City Council members.
Bowie voters reelected their mayor but ousted two incumbents in six nonpartisan races for City Council. Greenbelt voters returned five incumbents to the City Council.
About two dozen cities and towns in Prince George's operate their own police departments. Those that rely on the county's officers have become increasingly worried about lengthy response times by the understaffed county force. In May, New Carrollton voted to establish a three-member force.
"You hear story after story about crime, and people want to have a measure of control over their city and this is one way they could do that," Lucchi said.
Under the proposal approved yesterday, Bowie will establish a 57-member force, costing an estimated $7.5 million a year. Homeowners will pay about $46 per $100,000 of assessed value to fund the effort.
College Park's proposal will allow the City Council to create a 30-member department, share resources with another department or increase the city's contract with the county to provide more officers. City officials estimated that a new department will cost $4 million, or about $480 a year for the average taxpayer.
The decisions will have an impact beyond the two cities. If Bowie, the county's largest city with a population of 54,884, and College Park, with 25,350 residents, create their own forces, the dozens of county officers that patrol those cities would be reassigned to other parts of Prince George's, which could allow the county to reduce response times.
In Bowie, Mayor G. Frederick Robinson ran unopposed, and city voters also selected two at-large members and filled four district seats on the council.
In District 1, incumbent Kurt Kroemer, a vice president for biomedical services with the American Red Cross, defeated newcomer Rebecca Sunday.
In District 2, incumbent Jack D. Jenkins, who has served on the council since 1984, overcame challenges from James A. Golato, an inspector with the county liquor board, and Diane M. Polangin, who owns a tax service.
In District 3, Todd M. Turner, a newcomer and legislative aide for County Council member Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie), ousted incumbent Gail Booker Jones, a lawyer who had served on the council since 2002.
D. Michael Lyles, an associate county attorney who is finishing his first year on the council, defeated Troy S. Stewart, a partner in a publishing firm in District 4.
Newcomer Kevin W. Conroy, the dietary manager for the state correctional services, and incumbent Dennis Brady, an electrical engineer, won at-large seats on the council, beating out William A. Aleshire, a retired D.C. police officer who had served on the council since 1992.
In Greenbelt, voters agreed to amend their charter to allow the city to engage in collective bargaining with its police department. Voters also reelected five council members: Judith F. Davis, a retired sixth-grade teacher; Konrad E. Herling, a communications analyst; Leta M. Mach, a freelance writer; Edward V.J. Putens, a Food and Drug Administration employee; and Rodney M. Roberts, a mechanic and welder.
Kelly P. Ivy Sr., an Amtrak supervisor, had challenged the incumbents, saying Greenbelt should be more fiscally conservative.
In College Park, Mayor Stephen A. Brayman was reelected, as were council incumbents John M. Krouse, a University of Maryland researcher, and David L. Milligan, a training and development director. They defeated William S. Flanigen, a retired technical writer, in District 1.
In District 2, incumbents Robert T. Catlin, a retired economist, and John E. Perry defeated Yancy W. Davis. Newcomer Jutta E. Hagner, a corporate executive, lost to incumbents Andrew M. Fellows, a program director for Clean Water Action, and Eric C. Olson, a Sierra Club director, in District 3.
Parthasarathy Pillai, a retired chemist, lost to incumbents Karen E. Hampton, a human resources manager, and Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk in District 4.