Police statewide will work together to track, fight casino bred crime

With the finishing touches being made to the Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino this summer as construction is set to begin for the MGM at National Harbor, Interstate 295 will soon be lined with big dreams and even bigger odds.

"Maryland is a small state with a big challenge in front of it and we are going to go from one large casino that exists here in Anne Arundel County to three large casinos," Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis said.

Maryland Live has been up and running for two years. It’s currently the largest casino in the state. Learning to police this type of entertainment venue has been an evolution, according to police officials across the state.

Davis’s force went from a few patrols at first to its own mini district with a public substation.

Lessons were learned policing Maryland Live including where to look for crime around a casino and who specifically to look for.

"It's a unique type of criminal that takes advantage of the casino environment, whether it is theft or robbery or theft schemes etcetera. ... There is uniqueness about someone who preys on casino environments," Davis said.

Those criminals are about to have more environments to work with and within just 20 miles in either direction.  With that in mind, Davis believed police agencies would benefit from a unified approach.

"The criminal community who are going to try and look for a gap between the three casinos and that gap is best closed and quite frankly only closed by law enforcement," he said.

Helping to close that gap is the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Virginia.

The association hosted a symposium in May between the three police departments in Maryland affected directly by new casinos as well as the state police.

"Things happened in that meeting,” IACP Director of Research John Firman said. “You could see people making decisions about information sharing immediately."

It was in that meeting that law enforcement in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County decided to sync criminal information from all three entertainment venues to better combat dangerous criminal trends surrounding their casinos.

The umbrella providing the cover will be Maryland State Police.

"Whether it is Maryland Live or Baltimore City or at the National Harbor, the number of patrons, the size of those casinos, I think, made us want to make sure that we were sort of coordinating the efforts if there are any crime issues surrounding any of them," said Maryland State Police Col. Marcus Brown.     

MSP will lend the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center to this synchronized casino effort.

That is where the state police and federal partners already take in criminal information from all jurisdictions, determine trends and then inform law enforcement.

Brown said the existing blueprint of the fusion center is the perfect mechanism to sync crime trends and prevent larger scale casino crime.

"We've already proven what we are doing at our fusion center, whether it is the fight against other crimes like burglaries, like robberies, like auto theft rings. We've already proven that by feeding the intel to one location, analyzing it and then getting that information back out to the jurisdictions that are being affected, that we can win the crime fight," Brown said.

The umbrella approach to casino policing will also be an asset for Baltimore City.

"You could have people go from Baltimore to Anne Arundel down to PG and so I think it becomes very important and very good at planning to open up those communication lines," said Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.

The Baltimore Police Department is in the final stages of planning its enforcement of the Horseshoe Casino.

The new detail will be called the ‘Casino Mini-District’ and will have its own challenges when considering the other entertainment venues along Russell Street.

Having criminal data centralized when it comes to where to look and who to look for may prove invaluable as the Horseshoe expands Baltimore's tourist district.

"We are working as a team, we're working together, regular communications,” Batts said. “I think it is a plus for us. I think it is laying the groundwork for other people to see.  It is a benchmark and I think I am very proud to say, with my peers that we are doing a good job here in setting a precedent."

It is a precedent that may be set for the nation.

Once reserved for just a couple of cities, casinos are now popping up in major metropolitan areas around the country creating a fairly new policing issue for many cities; jurisdictions that now may look to the newest kid at the table for the best practices in how to keep people in and around the gaming venues safe.     

"We represent 23 thousand police leaders in 18 thousand different jurisdictions,” Firman said,  “What we are looking to do is take this and to run with it and probably publish a set of guidelines and say, as a police chief if a casino is coming to your jurisdiction,

here are your guidelines."