Gray clouds drift across the gloomy skies of Baltimore on a Tuesday morning as officers of the Baltimore City Police Department patrol their assigned districts. Rain falls in a gentle mist. On East Baltimore Street, water slowly drips off two flag poles protruding from a sand-colored building. Outside, police cars are lined up diagonally along the sidewalk. And inside is the headquarters for the Baltimore City Police Department.
As rain continues to hit the glass doors leading into the building, an employee of the department’s office staff sits quietly at a counter behind a booth. Two dark green-cushioned benches rest against the wall adjacent to the booth. All that is heard is the pitter-patter of raindrops and the occasional telephone call with an officer request. Former Chief of Process and Transport Pamela Johnson says that the city police office environment does not differ much from that of the county offices.
“I worked at the Monogalia County Sheriff’s Department in Morgantown, Virginia for five years,” Johnson said. “A typical day would be where you go in, you clock in, and you grab your files for the day. We would see who all got arrested the night before and we’d have to do their inventory and their paperwork.”
In a sudden motion, the door swings open and a petite, young woman enters. She is wearing the standard police uniform and is equipped with a utility belt, holding a pair of handcuffs, a Glock Model 22 .40 Caliber handgun, mace, an expandable baton, a radio, a flashlight, and a pocket cop, or Blackberry, which helps run people’s IDs and tag numbers. Officer Jill Beauregard has reported for her 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift.
According to the Baltimore City Police Department’s website, it is the 8th largest municipal police force in the United States with approximately 4,000 civilian and sworn personnel. Within the department are several units, each one designated towards a specific area of expertise. These fields include armed robbery, domestic violence, narcotics, and theft from automobiles.
Beauregard has been with the Baltimore City Police for two years and works in larceny from the Auto Detail Unit in the Central District. The unit investigates theft, malicious destruction of property, rogue and vagabond, and use of burglar tools all pertaining to automobiles.
“It’s a two-man unit, myself and my partner, Officer Dave Jones, 29-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department and a wealth of knowledge,” Beauregard said. “We don’t work on a patrol schedule. So, patrol operates on a 28-day schedule, so 28 days they do day work and then the next 28 days they do night work. Our hours differ every day based on the means of whatever we’re investigating.”
It was only eight hours earlier when Beauregard was in the office filing paperwork and completing the necessary Search and Seizure Warrants for the coming day. The process began after Beauregard and Jones started to investigate a suspect for larceny from automobiles. After the suspect was arrested multiple times for the same crime, the officers wrote a charging document listing the charge’s against the suspect, obtained an arrest warrant, and got it approved by the court commissioner. The next step was to gather other officers for backup and follow through with the search and seizure.
“If you have the opportunity, you can serve the warrant yourself or put it into the system at the hot desk and it will be dispersed,” Beauregard said.
At approximately 11:30 a.m., four Baltimore City Police Squad cars pull up to a brick house sitting in a row of other houses alike. Potted plants rest in the small yard outside the house. Although the house is listed as the suspect’s mailing address, it is not believed to be his permanent residence.
One of the officers, Officer Manny Moro, knocks on the door three times, yelling to inform the suspect that it is the police and they are here to serve him the warrant. With no answer, the officers use the battering ram to gain entrance and flood the home. Moments later, a man who is not the suspect is handcuffed and questioned.
“Who does this property belong to?” asked another officer, Officer Pete Johncox.
“Where did all of these come from?” Beauregard asked.
The man gives all of the information he has on the suspect’s whereabouts and is later released from the handcuffs. The potential stolen property is removed from the premises and taken back to the department for evidence.
“After awhile, you learn who is telling the truth and who is not,” Beauregard said. “I could tell he was telling the truth just by his tone of voice and the information he shared. But, if you’re associated with criminals, you’re going to feel our wrath.”
The officers say the home is not any different from that of typical larceny suspects. Gutted rooms, stained carpet, hazardous wiring and scratched walls all describe the basic household’s appearance. While Beauregard and the other officers are used to the living environment of larceny suspects, Johncox says he remembers one case that was particularly unsanitary.
“It was another search and seizure case and as soon as we broke down the door, this strong odor hits me,” Johncox said.
Minutes later, they discovered the odor was coming from the urine and feces of eight pit bull puppies that the owner never bothered to clean.
“I had to step outside,” Johncox said later. “The overwhelming smell made me feel like I was going to throw up.”
Beauregard and the other officers finish taking photographs of each room in the home for documentation and return to their cars. The day continues with one arrest for larceny from an automobile, one stop for a possibly stolen handicap placard and a domestic dispute. Despite the many cases of larceny for automobiles in the city, Beauregard says people do not take enough precautions.
“Most people don’t even give it a thought,” Beauregard said. They say ‘Oh, well. My car got broken into. Everybody’s car gets broken into.’ Statistically, it makes us, as a department, look way worse than we actually are. Everyone is affected.”
At the end of the day, Beauregard and the other police officers of the Baltimore City Police Department say they are improving the city and keeping Baltimore safe. Although the city’s larceny from automobiles crime was once at 179 percent, the department has significantly reduced the act by addressing the issue. While she believes HBO’s “The Wire” hasn’t done Baltimore any favors in terms of the city’s overall appearance, Beauregard says the department is doing all it can to make way for improvement.
“I definitely feel I’m making a difference because I am taking those people that break into everyone’s vehicles off the streets,” Beauregard said. “I’m clearing cases and returning property back to them. Every day, we are helping people.”