In a more proactive effort to nip local crime in the bud, University Police is partnering with several other departments to create a multiagency service team officials said has proved successful in the county.
The City Multiagency Service Team — dubbed CMAST, which launched in the city this semester — will allow police to analyze data about reported problems and target which areas need help from agencies other than the law, officials said.
CMAST is a collaboration between University Police and several agencies, including the Prince George’s County Police Department, the College Park Fire Department, the City of College Park, the County Liquor Board, the State’s Attorney’s Office and the university’s Office of Student Conduct.
“The idea is that when you look at a problem in a community or in an area, rather than labeling something as a police problem or a liquor board problem or an education problem, you take all these entities and you form this team and as a group you have input toward solutions for a problem using your areas of expertise,” University Police spokesman Capt. Marc Limansky said.
Overlapping information from several departments develops clusters that identify areas that need the most attention, he said.
“We can do a lot with just our own data, but having everyone on one sheet will paint a very clear picture,” Limansky said.
University Police Chief David Mitchell, who has been involved in CMAST initiatives in other departments such as county police, brought the concept to the campus.
“I’ve used this before in policing with great success,” Mitchell said. “So, I offered to bring the initiative in partnership to the city of College Park.”
Limansky said it can be especially useful when working within a student population.
“Let’s say we have a problem with underage drinking,” he said. “It can certainly be seen as a police problem, but it could involve, for example, a housing problem. If we target a problem from a police standpoint, people are just going to be fined and move on, but if you go to the landlord, then you can completely change the rent space. It’s a problem-solving model.”
Mitchell said CMAST has been used successfully in the county several times. When there were several reports of aggressive panhandling a few years ago, Mitchell said, the police were called to shoo them away, but they consistently came back.
“By taking a problem-oriented approach with CMAST, we found that the homeless organization in [the county] was dropping them off to go apply for jobs and [the panhandlers] weren’t doing that, but arresting a homeless person just gives them a record,” he said. “It wasn’t something that should be handled by the law. When we use other partners, we end up with solutions that work, which free up our time to do other things and improve the quality of life in our neighborhood.”
Bob Ryan, College Park’s director of public services, wrote in an email that city officials are looking forward to working with the other agencies involved in CMAST.
“We have worked with joint agency groups in the past; and, believe that combined City, County, State and University resources, working together in a CMAST organizational structure, have the potential for improving public safety city-wide,” Ryan wrote.
Prince George’s County Police District 1 Commander Maj. Hector Velez said Ryan’s hopes for the city has so far been successful in the county.
“It’s been very effective, and I think it will be very good in College Park, too,” Velez said. “If all the entities are on the same page, it’ll be great. You can’t go wrong with all of those entities. Chief Mitchell deserves a lot of credit for this.”