A Short History of the City
The City of New Carrollton is located in central Prince George's County, Maryland, and is 12.11 miles from central Washington, DC. As of the 2000 census, the population was 12, 589. Today (2008), the population is estimated to be between 14,000 & 16,000 residents.
It is built on the former estate of a horseracing figure, Edward L. Mahoney. After Mahoney's death in 1957, the land was acquired by developer Albert W. Turner who sought to create a planned suburb; indeed, he had received a charter for the City of Carrollton, Maryland from the Maryland General Assembly four years earlier, on April 11, 1953. (It should be noted that New Carrollton is the youngest municipality in Prince George's County, and is the last one to have been incorporated since 1953.)
Carrollton was named after early Maryland settler Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence. As two other Maryland communities were already named "Carrollton", a voter referendum on May 2, 1966 approved the renaming of the city to New Carrollton. As such, although the city was incorporated originally in 1953, it did not officially become "New" Carrollton until 1966. Despite its size, the city does not have its own post office or separate zip code. Instead, the assigned zip code of 20784, is (by post office rules) a "Hyattsville, MD" address, even though the City of Hyattsville does not use 20784, and is quite a distance from New Carrollton.
The City of New Carrollton had no form of independent police protection until the mid 1970's, when the city voted to employ "contract" officers from the Prince George's County Police Department. The contact officer program (which is no longer offered by the county), allowed the city to have officers assigned to work out of city hall, as if they were directly employed by the city. They only patrolled the incorporated areas of the city, and received work assignments, complaints, and special requests for premise checks from city hall employees. A small office space was reserved for the contact officers at city hall, and acted as an "impromptu" municipal police station. The city paid a fee to the county every year for the salaries, uniforms, cars and other equipment used by the officers, however they remained employees of Prince George's County. Until late 2005, three contract Prince George’s County Police Officers were the closest thing New Carrollton had to a municipal police force, at a cost of $132,600 per officer.
Talk of a City Police Department Starts
According to local newspaper articles, talk of New Carrollton having its own police force started circulating around 2003. In the September 18, 2003 issue of the Gazette newspaper, council person candidate Katrina Dodro was quoted as saying, "We need our own police force. I'll seek funding for this." Other articles relayed concerns from residents that the contract officers were not responsive to the "unique" problems of the city, and often took too long to respond to calls. (Contract officers did not issue city parking citations, or enforce city ordinances.) In January 2004, City Council member lobbied the city to "look into the possibility of starting a city police force." He went on to say at a January 7th city council meeting that "to not look into starting a police department would be a huge disservice to our taxpayers, and that the city should not even consider renewing its contract with Prince George's County for the following year."
In the February 24th, 2005 edition of the Gazette, an article entitled "City reviews proposal for own police force," goes on to state that the city council was reviewing a public safety study conducted by the University of Maryland, which assessed crime in the city. Of particular note was that the rate of auto thefts in New Carrollton were 500 more per 100,000 residents, then all of Prince George's County. Additionally, the study said that the rate of auto theft and breaking & entering in New Carrollton exceeded that of the entire state. The study also suggested several approaches to improving public safety in the city, one of which was to create a city police force. In the article, city resident June D. Garrett is quoted as saying, "I want a police department most definitely. Anytime you have a city the size of New Carrollton, you need a police department."
On April 20, 2005, residents were invited to attend a special city council meeting to express their opinions on the prospect of forming a New Carrollton city police department. This was the second of two special meetings held to give the residents their input on the possibility of placing a ballot question on the upcoming May 2nd (2005) election which would state the following: "Do you favor replacing our current three contract county police officers with our own three-officer police department at approximately the same cost ($375,000) to enhance the regular county patrol officers?" While most who spoke at the meetings were in favor of the ballot question, some were not. Some felt that there would be additional "hidden" costs for training, equipment and vehicles would cause an increase in taxes. Other residents and some council members said they agreed with the concept of starting a city force, but felt that the idea of "replacing three officers with three officers" was not enough, and that the city police department would need more officers than the proposal calls for. A Gazette article dated April 28th, 2005 quotes city resident (and city council candidate for the May election) June D. Garrett as saying, "Taxes are going to go up whether we have a police department or not."
The Residents Have Spoken, and History is Made
The question was in fact placed on the ballot, and on May 2nd, 2005, the residents of New Carrollton made history by casting 197 votes out of 285 to create a city police department. Only 88 of the 285 voted against the proposal, making it a "landslide" victory in favor of the new agency. (This would be the first new police department to be created in Prince George's County in 26 years, the last being Cottage City Police Department in 1979.) With the "people having spoken," the city quickly began to put the wheels in motion to find it's first chief of police.
Several months were spent interviewing applicants for the police department's top position, and at the November 2nd, 2005 regular city council meeting, Mayor Andrew Hanko swore in the city's first chief of Police, Mr. David G. Rice, whom prior to his appointment had been the Chief of Police for the Town of Fairmount Heights. Chief Rice, who comes from a law enforcement family, had only been chief at his former agency for two years, however in that short amount of time he had won accolades from the Fairmount Heights town council along with the majority of the town's residents as a "no-nonsense" police official who formed a close bond with the residents and business owners, and used their help to crack down on crime, an ill which had plagued this DC-border town for many years. Chief Rice came highly recommended, and this was exactly the kind of person the City of New Carrollton was looking for in their new chief of police.
The original proposal was to replace the three county contract police officers with three city police officers, and the new chief quickly brought in some additional manpower, all from his prior agency, the Fairmount Heights Police Department. The city's second officer, David L. Ladd, was hired in December of 2005, with the rank of Sergeant. Ladd had been a Lieutenant at Fairmount Heights, and his training and experience made him a natural assistant to the new chief. Approximately one year later, Ladd would find himself promoted to Lieutenant at New Carrollton as well. The three-man department was complete with the arrival of officer Marc Butler (also in December of 2005), whom would later become the department's patrol division Sergeant. The newly-minted police force quickly got itself in order, and hit the road with "both feet running" to show the residents of New Carrollton the benefits of having a municipal police department.
In the first 6 months of operation, the New Carrollton City Police Department, consisting of only a chief and two officers, issued over 100 traffic citations, and made over 200 criminal arrests! While the officers worked extremely hard, it was quite clear that with the size and population of New Carrollton, the police department would never be able to operate efficiently with just three officers. (Consider the City of Hyattsville, which with only 2,000 additional residents, is similar in size to New Carrollton, yet has a police department of 40 officers.) The residents and council members recognized this fact, and quickly authorized Chief Rice to hire additional officers.
The Department Begins to Grow
The year of 2006 was a busy one for the new police department. It hired an additional 5 full-time police officers, and 2 part-time reserve officers, a full-time administrative assistant, a part-time records clerk, and created a "Parking Enforcement Division," staffed by a full-time parking enforcement officer. The department reached out as far away as Indiana County, Pennsylvania, to recruit two two outstanding deputies from the Indiana County Sheriff's Office. By the end of 2006, and approximately one year after the creation of the new city force, the police department had 8 full time police officers, 2 reserve officers, and 3 civilian employees, and had collectively issued a total of 1767 traffic & parking citations, made 336 arrests, investigated 71 traffic accidents, and assisted other officers or other agencies 526 times.
Two additional officers were hired in July 2007, bringing the total of sworn full-time officers to 13, along with one part-time reserve officer. By 2008 the civilian position of Parking Enforcement Officers was filled, and looks forward to continued growth until enough officers are on staff to adequately maintain peace and order in the city.