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Call Box

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EVER EVER EVER Motto Divder

Baltimore City Police 
Call Box History

642
This Box #642 was located in the 
Northwest District

at the corner of Park Heights and Belvidere Ave
The number to call the box was 396-2174

The Call Box
Baltimore got its first Call Box in 1885 - In Baltimore, it is hard to talk about the Call Box without also talking about the Patrol Wagon. They are obviously two very different law enforcement tools, but when it comes to Baltimore Police History, they will forever be linked by a Deputy Marshal and a date. Baltimore's first Call Box came to Baltimore in 1885 and as already mentioned was part of a package deal dreamt up by Deputy Marshal Jacob Frey that was made up of both the Call Box and the Police Patrol Wagon. The date that these things went into service according to Sun Paper accounts was 18 October 1885, and it is believed to have made Baltimore only the second city in the country behind Chicago to use Patrol Wagons.

Newspapers recount a story of its all starting while sitting in the gymnasium of Central's Police Station reading an illustrated magazine (most likely Harper's Weekly or Illustrated Police News) when the Deputy Marshal first saw facts on the Police Patrol Wagon being used. Before the use of Patrol Wagons, when arrested, prisoners were walked back to the officer's station house. In fact, there are many accounts written of officers having to carry drunk, injured or otherwise incapacitated prisoners back to the station. In some of the cases involving impaired prisoners, they tell of patrolmen commandeering small manual wagons or wheelbarrows to transport their arrestees. 

Deputy Marshal Frey took the idea for these tools before the (BOC) Board of Commissioners; they were mildly interested but left it at that. Frey didn't give up on ideas that he believed in, and he saw something special in both the Wagon and the Call Box. For that reason, he gathered more information on these tools, and a few weeks later he again called the board’s attention to the matter. They had forgotten about it the first time he had brought it up but promised to look into it and give it serious consideration.

Horse-drawn Police Wagon's and a Police Telegraph Box system was the future of policing in Frey's eyes, and after the BOC failed to act, Frey would take matters into its own hands. He sent members of the department to Chicago to see how the "New Fanged" Patrols Wagons would fit in our agency. An old record states, the team he sent "were charmed." While there, they also looked into Chicago’s new "Police Telegraph System" (the Call Box) and likewise, they found it to be everything the Deputy Marshal had touted it would be. For more information, please take a look at the Patrol Wagon page and the Recall Light page, both on this website at the following links. Click on either Patrol Wagon or Recall Light to visit either of these pages and look for other links found within these two pages.

The results of Baltimore's trip was that both of these tools were in Baltimore by the fall of 1885. According to Baltimore's Sun Paper reports, Chicago was the first to use the Police Wagon, and Baltimore quickly became the second. They were first put into use in the Central District on 18 October 1885. As for the Call Box system just as they did with the Patrol Wagon, it too was first used in Central District and also came in the fall of 1885. Baltimore would use the Call Box for just over 100 years from that 1885 until 1986 when a 1-800 number was established for police to contact their district or KGA when radio use was deemed inappropriate. All boxes were eventually removed from service by 1988.
Let's take a look at information on that first Baltimore Call Box
call box
As previously stated it came on 18 October 1885 the same day the Patrol Wagons went into use. The Baltimore Police Department started using the Police Telegraph Box (Call Box). The pilot program was launched in the Central District with 58 boxes. The system of Call Boxes would quickly spread to be used in all 8 Districts, and on all police posts/bailiwicks. The first Call Box ever put to use via a test-call came from the stationhouse to a Patrolman at the Call Box and then back to the station house from the Patrolman. The Call Box used was Box #63 which at the time was located on the corner of Franklin, and Charles Streets in as was previously stated the Central then called "Middle" District. Our Boxes were described as having been attached to a telegraph pole approximately 4 ft from the ground. It was made in two sections; the phone section in the top compartment, with the lower compartment housing a "Dial" system in which an officer could point a pin of the dial on whatever he wanted to call; from Back-up to a Wagon, to an Ambo. 
 cd call box
A piece of information not previously known was that the color of these first 58 Call Boxes was "Red." Unlike the single door Gamewell Call Boxes that have come to be known by collectors as, "The Baltimore Box"; the first Baltimore Boxes, also made by Gamewell, had two doors and they were not the well know Green we see on reconditioned boxes found in our police Museum and in private collections.

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An 1894 advertisement for the "Glasgow Style Police Signal Box System", sold by the National Telephone Company. The first police telephone was installed in Albany, New York in 1877, one year after Alexander Graham Bell invented the device. Call boxes for use by both police and members of the public were first installed in Washington, DC in 1883; Chicago and Detroit installed police call boxes in 1884, and in 1885 Boston followed suit. These were direct line telephones placed on a post which could often be accessed by a key or breaking a glass panel. In Chicago, the telephones were restricted to police use, but the boxes also contained a dial mechanism which members of the public could use to signal different types of alarms: there were eleven signals, including "Police Wagon Required", "Thieves", "Forgers", "Murder", "Accident", "Fire" and "Drunkard".

 Bert Box

William Bertazon
Had dinner at Dalesco's in Little Italy
Found the BPD call box #539.
The owner Paul Oliver said it was given to him
by former Police Commissioner Bishop Robinson


The first public police telephones in Britain were introduced in Glasgow in 1891. These tall, cast-iron boxes were painted red and had large gas lanterns fixed to the roof, as well as a mechanism which enabled the central police station to light the lanterns as signals to police officers in the vicinity to call the station for instructions. These call boxes were not as much like the boxes used here in the US, these were more like what we see in the Dr. Who show. While we have no photographs and are still researching and digging up information, there are stories of us having boxes similar to these in Baltimore over the years, we will continue our research and update this page when we have more information on the subject. For now, all we have what was used and when it was used in other countries.

Rectangular, wooden police boxes were introduced in Sunderland in 1923, and Newcastle in 1925. The Metropolitan Police (Met) introduced police boxes throughout London between 1928 and 1937, and the design that later became the most well-known was created for the Met by Gilbert MacKenzie Trench in 1929. Although some sources (e.g.) assert that the earliest boxes were made of wood, the original MacKenzie Trench blueprints indicate that the material for the shell of the box is "concrete" with only the door being made of wood (specifically, "teak"). Officers complained that the concrete boxes were extremely cold. For use by the officers, the interiors of the boxes normally contained a stool, a table, brushes and dusters, a fire extinguisher, and a small electric heater. Like the 19th century Glaswegian boxes, the London police boxes contained a light at the top of each box, which would flash as a signal to police officers indicating that they should contact the station; the lights were, by this time, electrically powered.

Sgt. Fisher Call Box

 Gamewell Box
Baltimore style but from the number plate
this is not a Baltimore Box

4702880517 640a418e09 o 

 911 box

This was purchased from Retired Sergeant Edward Mattson, it had this makeshift Box number of 911 affixed to the plate on the front, but inside attached to the back of the box was a 3/4 inch wooden board apparently used to display award or some other shadow box type display. When we removed the board, we found a few ribbons, a Baltimore Police Department K9 dog tag, and the original Call Box plate numbered of 457. It would appear whoever made the 911 plate secured/preserved the correct Call box Number plate inside the box under the wooden board with a few other items that were important and or valuable to the person that saved them. We will add a new pic with the corrected numbers when time allows

1950sOfficer

This box is in what is known as a "Harp" and could be Washington DC
euwtaw street 1925

 Telephone and Telegraph Division

With traffic signals and supervised by John A. Martin, the superintendent

Progress as told here by Superintendent Martin

Every story must have a beginning, so permit me to go back to January 1918, when I first obtained my position as a lineman with the Baltimore Police Department. At that time there was a Lieut. and a sergeant acting as a superintendent and assistant superintendent of the telephone and signal division, five lineman, one truck and two touring cars used for construction and maintenance.

The equipment to be maintained was 265 Callboxes, eight telephone switchboard, 800 Bluestone gravity batteries, 15 bank alarms, for pawnbroker alarms, eight station houses and approximately 181,665 feet of underground telephone cable. All of this equipment to the best of my knowledge had been in service 25 to 30 years prior to 1918 and was still operating fairly well at this time with the exception of the timestamps and registers which were of the Inky type and at times would be impossible to distinguish one call box number from another as the ink would smear and spread over the recording tape.

Our police telephone switchboard’s work of what was known then as the target type and operated as follows; when a patrolman wished to make a telephone call he would pull down the lever marked telephone and lift off the receiver. This would release a target on the telephone switchboard which was numbered one, two, three, etc. corresponding to which every circuit he was calling in on. The target was about the size of a silver dollar and when released it would show that the patrolman wished to talk over the circuit. This method of signaling was not very satisfactory, especially when the patrolman had a prisoner at the box, as often times the target which fell by gravity just would not fall. Therefore there would be no indication at the telephone switchboard that the patrolman needed assistance. The only other method he could use would be to pull the lever on the wagon call, but this signal was not audible and would only register on the tape as a wagon call. This often caused considerable delay in dispatching the wagon or assistance to the patrolman.

At that time there was no means of notifying the officer in the district of an emergency or that he was wanted to communicate with his headquarters.

(I mentioned the above equipment and operation of it to show the improvements that were made by the department later on.)

Early in the year of 1921, we installed a signal light on the control box located on the southeast corner of Baltimore and Charles Street. The signal was made up of an electric light bulb, a wash basin to shade the bulb and a Marine lens.

The mechanism for the operation of this light was located in the old central police station house on Saratoga Street near Charles Street it consists of an alarm clock for the flashing apparatus.

This method of notifying the officer that he was wanted proved very successful and at the present time, we have 269 recall lights in operation throughout the city, on a much more improved pattern than the first one. The present recall system consists of one commercial sign flasher in each district station house, which carries 110 V to each recall light located on Callboxes and is operated with a steady or flashing light by the telephone operator in each district. The above method applies to all districts. JohnandKen72Officer John Heideman and Detective Kenny Driscoll
2016


The way this worked was as follows - If it were me, and I saw the light on, I would have gone to the Call Box, and answered like this: “ This is Officer Driscoll, on the light.” If I were simply making your required hourly call, I would have said: “This is Officer Driscoll on 525, or whatever box I was using.” The operator then knew exactly where “we” were. 

In 1921 it was necessary for the police call box system to be extended due to the Annexation. This required the installation of 135,000 feet of overhead telephone wire additional police Callboxes. It was also necessary to increase our personnel from 5 linemen to 9 linemen and one additional chauffeur.

In 1927 I was appointed to fill the position of lineman Foreman of the telephone and signal division under the supervision of the previously mentioned a Lieut. and Sgt. who was now elevated to the rank of Capt. and Lieut.

In March 1934 the practice of assigning members of the force to the telephone and signal division was abandoned after the death of the Capt. and Lieut.

As a result of this action, I was appointed as superintendent of the lineman, telephone and signal division with Mr. George F. Abrecht one of our lineman appointed lineman Foreman.

We then began the task of remodeling are patrol boxes and telephone switchboard. All this work was done in our own workshop and by her own mechanics. With these improvements when the officers wished to call the district, he left the combination handset from the hawk; this flash is a green light on the switchboard in the station house immediately notifying the operator that an officer is on the line and ready to talk.

The register and time stamps were now of the punch type. When a report call is made the tape will be perforated with the box number and report call, also the date and time the call was made. The officers in all districts can also be notified by our flashing and recall system to call their station houses.

The 800 Bluestone gravity batteries have been replaced with the modern storage batteries and rectifiers.

So much for a brief outline of the telephone and signal system.

We also have the traffic control system included in our telephone and signal division. As I feel I have been one of the pioneers in the automatic traffic controlling apparatus I would like to go back to the year of 1919 to 1921 beginning with the hand-operated semaphores. There were approximately eight hand-operated semaphores in service at the following intersections North Avenue and Charles St., North Avenue and Mount Royal Avenue, light and Pratt St., St. Paul Street and Fayette St., Howard and Lexington streets, St. Paul and Mt. Royal Ave., Calvert and Fayette St., Lombard and Howard Street

Beginning in the year of 1921 this number was slowly increased and quite a bit of experimenting was done with different types. The first type was a piece of pipe with a concrete base and the word stop and go on it. The officer operated this with a hand lever.

Next came the semaphore on rollers, the officer standing on a wooden platform with metal shielding around him about the high, this was used to keep the officer from being splashed with mud. This was also operated by a hand lever.

Following this several towers were built 12 feet high. These towers were located on stilts 3 feet from the surface of the street. This was done so as the officers could look over traffic for several blocks in all directions. These towers had a revolving cylinder in the top with the words stop and go and were operated by an endless chain for revolving the cylinder and were supposed to be the last word in traffic control. These towers were placed at Calvert and Fayette streets, St. Paul and Fayette Street, and at light and Pratt Street the towers operated very well during daylight hours, but they could not be seen at night. So the idea was conceived to electrify them, which was done in the following manner. The words stop and go and for elec-cylinder was made transparent with trick light bulbs placed in the center of the cylinder, also an amber light was placed on the extreme top of the tower.

The operation was as follows: when the officer wanted to make a change in traffic he would push a button located on the inside of the tower three times, which would flash the amber light three times warning the traffic that there would be a change, then turn the cylinder to the necessary stop and go. The electrification of these towers was about the beginning of electrically operating traffic signals in Baltimore.

In the month of March 1922, a two-compartment signal was designed by Baltimore engineer. The signal consisted of eight lenses and two electric light bulbs. When the top compartment bald was illuminated the signal was so green, North and South; red East and West, when the bottom compartment was illuminated the top ball but when out, the signal sewing green East and West; and red North and South. This type of signal was installed one trial at Howard and Lexington streets, temporary current being furnished by department store on the northeast corner. The signal was suspended on a span of wire of the United Railway Company. Wires were then run from the signal to the footway on the northeast corner, where an officer operated signal with push buttons from his point. This light was put in operation about noontime of the day that it was installed, and operated very satisfactorily. However the next morning when the officer went up to operate the signal, he found that there was no signal there and on investigation, it was found that during the night a load of hay southbound on Howard Street became tangled up in the signal, tearing it from its moorings and it was not discovered until the farmer was unloading his hay.

In April 1922, a traffic tower was constructed at North Avenue and Charles Street [which still stands], high enough so an officer standing in this tower would have a clear view of North Avenue. From Howard Street to Guilford Avenue and on Charles Street from Lanvale to 23rd St. the idea at the time was to operate traffic as follows.

When the signal would show red on North Avenue all vehicle traffic on North Avenue between Howard Street and Guilford Avenue was supposed to come to a stop, north and southbound traffic between Howard Street and Guilford Avenue was permitted to move. This did not work very satisfactorily due to the type of signal used at this time, the lens being nothing more than colored glass without reflectors and was hard to distinguish. So the idea of controlling traffic from one signal, on North Avenue from Howard to Guilford Avenue was not put into effect and it was decided to control the intersection of Charles Street and North Avenue and only.

In June 1922 it was decided to install two traffic signals, one to be located in St. Paul and Fayette Street, the other at St. Paul Street and Lexington, which was completed in July, 1922, and was the same type signal that had been previously tried out at Howard Street and Lexington Street but instead of being suspended they were on a pedestal. These signals were operated manually by pushing buttons. The signals were operated until 1923, during this time more modern traffic signals were being developed by several manufacturers.

We were induced to try out to more modern type signals which we did. The signals were called the Milliken talking lamps and consisted of four red lenses and four green lenses being set in a box type metal housing that would rotate a half turn at each force of the button. The operation was as follows, the signal, for example, would be green for North and South traffic, the officer would push the button which would start a motor operating which in turn, would rotate the box type signal half way around or vice versa, also ringing a bell and blowing a horn which could be heard for several blocks. This became very objectionable to the office workers of this locality and had to be discontinued.

During this period of time from the last insulation until January 1924, there were no traffic signals installed. In January 1924, modern traffic signals which now had been developed were installed on North Avenue from Guilford Avenue to Howard Street, also Charles Street and 20th St. The colored glass signal was removed from the tower at North Avenue and Charles Street and more modern signals installed which are still standing.

All signals on North Avenue. From Guilford Avenue to Howard Street including Charles and 20th St. were interconnected and operated both automatic and manually [this being the first automatic operated traffic signal in Baltimore], from the tower at North Avenue and Charles Street. The operation was as follows: movement number one, signals all read on North Avenue from Guilford Avenue to Howard Street; movement number two signals all green on North Avenue from Guilford Avenue to Howard Street. This system stayed in effect until October 1928. Several isolated intersections were signalized in the year 1924, including North Avenue and Mount Royal and Linden Avenue and Biddle Street.

March 5, 1925, a tower was erected at Mount Royal Avenue in St. Paul Street the same as North Avenue and Charles Street. Traffic signals were placed on St. Paul Street from Mount Royal Ave. to Monument Street to mast arm type signals were installed at each intersection. The signals operated both automatic and manual as follows: the signals were timed in pairs, for example, St. Paul and Mt. Royal and St. Paul and Preston would be green, St. Paul Biddle St. Paul and Chase Street would be read this operation continued until December 1 of 1928.

February 22, 1928, the first vehicle actuated control was tried out in Baltimore. (To the best of my knowledge this was the first vehicle actuated signal insulation in the world.)

This was an automatic control were a brake attachment and two finals placed on polls on the right-hand side of the cross street, ordinary telephone transmitters being installed inside the finals. These transmitters being connected to the sound relay, which when disturbed by noise, for example, the blowing of warns, tooting of whistles, or the sound of voices would actuate the sound relay, releasing the break on the automatic control permitting the motor to run. This would change the signal which had been green on the main street to Amber, then to read, permitting the side street traffic to move out on the green.

This control would always restore itself back to the main street green, then the break would set and the signal would remain green on the main street until disturbed again by sound. Several of this type were installed, one being at Charles Street and Coldspring Lane, another at Charles and Belvedere Avenue

This type of actuation was not found very satisfying for the following reason. Residents of the locality where these type signals were installed, complained of the continuous blowing of warns, whistles of locomotion locomotives on nearby railroad would actuate the control. Considerable trouble was caused by boys throwing stones into the finals. To overcome these objections it was necessary to install a hollow metal box in the bed of the cross street with the same type transmitter, installed in the metal box as had previously been used in the finals. The wheels of the vehicle passing over the hollow metal box would transmit sound to the transmitter the same as was done previously by the blowing of horns or other noises.

This type works very satisfactorily and we still have it at present time in several locations throughout the city.

The first flexible progressive traffic system installed in Baltimore was put into service on Baltimore Street from gay to Howard Street, from Howard Street to Baltimore to Franklin Street in the month of July 1928. This insulation consisted of a 4 2 way signals at each intersection, automatic and manual control at each intersection being controlled by a master timer located in the basement of the police headquarters building, this master time being connected by a lead to covered cable to all intersections.

This system works very satisfactorily and in the year of 1929, the following intersections were put in service. One Fayette Street from gay to You Tall St., Lexington Street from gay to Howard St., Redwood Street from Calvert to Howard St., Franklin Street from Park Avenue to You Tall St., Fallsway from Fayette to Helen St., Charles and Saratoga Street and Lombard and Liberty Street. This entire group of signals being operated from the same master timer as Baltimore Street. This system is still operating at present time March 1945

In October 1928, the same type of flexible progressive system was installed on North Avenue from Guilford Avenue to Howard Street, replacing the system previously mentioned on North Avenue from Guilford Avenue to Howard Street

December 21, 1929, The flexible progressive system was put in service at the following locations: on St. Paul Street from center to Mount Royal Ave., on Cathedral Street from Mulberry to Mount Royal Ave., on Charles Street from Franklin Street to eager Street, on Mount Royal Ave. from Calvert to Cathedral Street and on Fallsway from eager the Preston Street.

This system was replaced by a triple reset progressive system in July 1942. This system favors the movement of southbound traffic in the morning and reverses itself in the afternoon.

This is accomplished automatically by time clocks and has proven very successful. This department maintains the following equipment: 434 intersections controlled by automatic traffic timers; 216 electric pylons; five master traffic controls; approximately 1 million feet of traffic and telephone underground cable; 25,000 feet of overhead telephone wire; eight telephone switchboards; 355 police Callboxes; 269 recall boxes; 600 storage batteries; 13 pawnbroker alarms; 46 bank alarms; and 15 police buildings.

In addition to the maintenance, this department does all of the construction and new insulations of traffic signals and telephone equipment. We do this with the following personnel; chauffeurs Charles J. Brown and Frederick M. Crum it, Lyman John H. Childs, Albert R. Cresswell, L. Graham Doyle, Lewis W. Eckerd, John A. Funk, Stuart M. Gates, Nelson S. Go brick, Clyde leered, Clarence N. G. Louver, Earl J. Myers, John H. Morgan Wick, Lewis W Orem, John M. Show well, foreman Albert G Warfield and myself John H. Martin superintendent of system.

1922 - 17 Sept 1922 - Recall Lights are put to use for the first time in the country.  Police of the Central district began operating the new police recall system. Every uniformed man from the inspector to patrolman was enthusiastic over the results. The first week of the "Magic Blinkers" has created a demand from other districts and other jurisdictions that the system be installed everywhere immediately.

 wagon call
Courtesy Patty Driscoll
Wagon Box
wagon call 2
Courtesy Patty Driscoll
Wagon Box
wagon call 3
Courtesy Patty Driscoll
Wagon Box
wagon call 4
Courtesy Patty Driscoll
Wagon Box

Police Lights Nemesis of Evildoers

Like Centennial’s Their Winking Rays Stand Ready To Issue Calls to Urgent Duty or to Foretell Tragedy

Like a mischievous I, a blue light was winking slyly at the edge of the sidewalk. Winking persistently at anyone who would look at it. At the same time, all over Baltimore hundreds of similar lights were also winking.

The average pedestrian paid no more attention to the flashing light than to ogles of an unattractive girl. A custom as he was to traffic signals, electric signals, street lamps and the hundred and one other lighting devices which modern city life has evolved, he didn’t even notice this one.

But scattered here and there over the city were some thousand men who leaped to respond at the first link they saw with the alacrity of a lover at the call of his most chairs sweetheart. They were members of the Baltimore police force, and they knew these lights might have important things to tell them.

To safeguard the citizens of Baltimore from its members who have wandered off or slipped from the lawful course of life, the city has been divided into eight districts. When something goes amiss in any section it is possible to inform practically every Guardian of the peace of that fact within a few minutes.

Here is how it works; a store is robbed, perhaps in the Northwest section of the city. The thieves escape an automobile. The owner of the store telephones police headquarters. There he is switched to the chief inspector's office, where he excitedly gives such descriptions of the men who robbed him and their car as he can recall. The Sgt. on duty helps him out by asking pertinent questions. Sometimes the person reporting is too upset to talk coherently.

Having obtained what information he can the Sgt., almost before the man is finished talking, is giving the signal on the private wire which puts the eight police districts on the telephone at once. He gives the facts of the robbery just want, and all eight districts throughout the city have the theft on record.

The man on the phone at each station house presses a button immediately. Lies begin to wink all over the city, informing patrolman, motorcycle police and detectives working in the eight districts of the city, to call their district headquarters.

As soon as each man on duty sees a flashing light, he calls the station house in his district and is given an account of the robbery.

Within a few minutes, ordinarily, the news has been flashed all over the entire city by means of these blue lights winking from the top of the police Callboxes and from the rooms of station houses.

There are in the city of Baltimore 1350 patrolmen, 170 sergeants, 25 detective sergeants, 25 detective patrolman, and 25 Lieut. Detectives more than 1500 altogether.

By this simple device of pushing a button, or flashing on a light by lifting a lever, it is possible to get in touch with most of this force scattered over the city and in incredibly short time.

It has been quite a step from the days when the police used to communicate with one another by striking on the sidewalk with their Espantoon.

It is such an easy thing to push a Bell or release a whole and flash on a light at the telephone exchange. Yet it strains the imagination to reflect upon the far-reaching and complicated process such simple little actions can start.

The chief inspector's office is a fascinating place. There can be observed the mysterious complex working of the network of wires which are like the nerves of a modern city.

In one corner is a little brass instrument connected only indirectly with the main telephone nervous system. It is used to convey information of a specialized kind, of attempts to gain unlawful possession of private property.

This machine is engaged with approximately 100 banks in the city. When someone holds up one of these institutions and alarm can be sent to police headquarters by any one of the banks who is lucky or sometimes unlucky enough to have his hand on the push button placed in a convenient and hidden place in the bank for just such an emergency.

Automobile stands outside the courthouse waiting for just such calls. The bell has hardly finished placing off the signal which tells what bank is in trouble before detectives are speeding to the spot.

But most of the process used to trip up the criminally inclined are in place before they have completed the crime in progress, allowing this system and the telephone to help aid in their capture.

The telephone wire in the chief inspector's office is kept hot all day, according to the Sgt. there, with signals of distress coming in from all over the city. Some strains, a few tragic, and many inconsequential things appear on a daily record sheet, where requests for a patrolman are recorded.

A woman reports a man looking at her window.

A dice game is seen and police assistance demanded to break it up.

A fight is going on in a saloon on such and such a street.

Two children were heard to cry out, but when the person telephoning got there they were not to be found.

A noisy party is extending its residents to far into the night.

An automobile has been parked on the wrong side of the street for more than an hour, according to the woman who has been watching it from her front window.

Some schoolboys playing ball on a nearby lot are too boisterous us about it.

Cries were heard coming from a neighboring house.

A light is seen burning in an unoccupied building.

Smokey smelled at a certain Street intersection.

A woman is lying under a streetcar.

A man drops dead on the corner.

A couple has been fixated at a house on Fayette Street.

A drunken man is lying in the gutter near a certain corner.

Among all these, there will appear occasionally some strains bit like this; Mrs. C. Reports that the new fence post around her yard was removed and was meeting ones substituted for them.

Or Mrs. B. Says she is being followed continually, and that a Dictaphone has been installed in her room to listen to what goes on there.

“But we always treat all requests for the service of the patrolman seriously, no matter what the matter of the request,” says the Sgt. “We send a man up who looks at the fence post quite gravely, soothes the fears of the caller and returns to the office to report what is or isn’t quite right.

“Yes, we have quite a few of these curious calls. Some of them come in regularly from certain sources which we have learned about from previous experience. We have a list of these regular customers, of course, so we know how to take them.

“Most of the complaints come by telephone, but there was one recently which was too indignant to be trusted to the wire. The woman came in and person to deliver it. “I want to report a traffic officer,” he said, “He just called me a jaywalker. I don’t know what he meant, but I won’t be called such a name by anyone.” But the face to face complaint or request for patrolman is rare; probably it is well for the chief inspector's office that it is.

The telephone has many advantages other than that of being a time saver.

Police departments all over the United States can get or give information quickly this way and cooperate in catching criminals who have fled from one city to another. There is the cable for still further distances.

A button may be placed in Baltimore or lever released a flashing light and vibrations from that simple little act may cover a good portion of the Western Hemisphere, going on for months, sometimes for years.

The man is a thinking animal, a close wearing animal, a tool using animal, men of letters have said at various times, all vying with one another in defying the human being in the shortest term.

The last of these, a tool using animal, perhaps is best for modern uses. The man is a tool using animal, but in recent years he has learned to work with many of the tools by merely pushing a button.

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Call Box Locations
by District

Red Indicates a Standby Call Box Locations Box Numbers
The Red Info comes from 1962 June 1st list of Standby Locations
The Bold 3 Digit Call Box # came from a 1971 BPD Directory

Some of our Call Boxes have an old black rotary phone in them, if yours has one of these phones, the 7 digit phone number on that phone can be used to trace the corner/location it came from - Also you might have a 3 or 4 digit plate on the front of the box, that number might also be found on this list

Central

Baltimore and Holiday Street - 396-2111 - 3-Digit Box #500
Howard and Fayette - 396-2112 - 3-Digit Box #501
Park Ave and Clay St. - 396-2113  - Box #1430  - 3-Digit Box #502
Howard and Franklin St. - 396-2114  - 3-Digit Box #503
Maryland and Biddle - 396-2115  - 3-Digit Box #504
Charles Street south of North Ave - 396-2116  - 3-Digit Box #505
Madison and Tyson Sts. - 396-2117 - 3-Digit Box #506
Biddle and Madison Sts. - 396-2118  - Box #1730 - 3-Digit Box #507
Lanvale St. and Jenkins Alley - 396-2119 - 3-Digit Box #508
North Ave and Jordan Alley - 396-2120 - 3-Digit Box #509
Civic Center Hopkins Plaza - 396-2121 - 3-Digit Box #510
Whitlock St and Mason Alley - 396-2122 - 3-Digit Box #511
25th and Mace Sts. - 396-2123 - 3-Digit Box #512
Pearl and Lexington Sts. - 396-2124 - 3-Digit Box #513
Paca St north of Lexington St. - 396-2125 - 3-Digit Box #514
Pennsylvania Ave and Hoffman St. - 396-2126 - 3-Digit Box #515
Pennsylvania Ave and Lafayette Ave. - 396-2127 - 3-Digit Box #516
Pennsylvania Ave and Wilson St. - 396-2128 - 3-Digit Box #517
Fallsway and Lexington Sts. - Box #1350 
Eager and Forrest Sts. - Box #1520
McMechen St and Mason Alley - Box #1830
Bath and Davis Sts.   - Box #1450
Lombard and Market Place   - Box #1170
Oliver St and Morton Alley   - Box #1670

Southwestern

Dennison and Clifton Ave - 396-2129 - 3-Digit Box #594
Windsor Mill and Eagle Rds - 396-2130 - 3-Digit Box #595
Belmont Ave and Ellamont St - 396-2131 - 3-Digit Box #596
Pratt and Pulaski Sts. - 396-2132 - 3-Digit Box #597
Desoto Rd and Washing Blvd. - 396-2133 - 3-Digit Box #598
Canton and Wilkens Ave. - 396-2134 - 3-Digit Box #400
Frederick and Augusta Ave - 396-2135  - Box #8540 - 3-Digit Box #401
Frederick Ave and Millington St. - 396-2136 - 3-Digit Box #402
Baltimore and Hilton Sts. - 396-2137  - Box #8630 - 3-Digit Box #403
Edmondson Ave and Lyndhurst St. - 396-2138 - Box #8650 - 3-Digit Box #404
Edmondson Ave and Swann Ave - 396-2139  - Box #8660 - 3-Digit Box #405
Fremont Ave. and Ridgley St.   - Box #8110
Bayard and Hamburg Sts.  - Box #8340
Addison and Pratt Sts.  - Box #8430
Washington Blvd. and Desoto Rd.  - Box #8520
Smallwood St. and Wilkens Ave.  - Box #8470
Annapolis Ave. and Washington Blvd.  - Box #8510
Wilkens Ave. and Caton Ave.  - Box #8530
Annapolis Ave. and Clare St.  - Box #8360
Cooks Lane and Edmondson Ave.  - Box #8670
Monroe St. and Washington Blvd.  - Box #8370
Lombard and Poppleton Sts.  - Box #8280
Hilton Sts. and Edmondson Ave.  - Box #8640
Cross St. and Washington Blvd.  - Box #8240

Southern

Eutaw and Ostend St. - 396-2140 - 3-Digit Box #426
Cross and Washington Blvd. - 396-2141 - 3-Digit Box #427
Arlington Ave and Hollins St. - 396-2142 - 3-Digit Box #428
Fremont Ave and Washington Blvd. - 396-2143 - 3-Digit Box #378
Gilmore and Ramsey St. - 396-2144 - 3-Digit Box #410
Washington Blvd and Scott St. - 396-2145 - 3-Digit Box #411
Hollins Ferry Rd opposite Puget St. - 396-2146 - 3-Digit Box #412
Hanover and Dover Sts. - 396-2147 - 3-Digit Box #413
Hill St 50 ft west of Hanover St. - 396-2148 - 3-Digit Box #414
Leadenhall St 85 ft south of Hamburg St - 396-2149 - 3-Digit Box #415
Light and Cross St. - 396-2150 - 3-Digit Box #416
Covington and Heath St. - 396-2151 - 3-Digit Box #417
Fort Ave and Light St. - 396-2152 - 3-Digit Box #418
Cherryhill and Seabury Aves - 396-2153  - Box #9560 - 3-Digit Box #419
Reedbird and Seamon Aves. - 396-2154 - 3-Digit Box #420
Patapsco Ave opposite 10th St. - 396-2155  - Box #9640 - 3-Digit Box #430
Sharp and Barre Sts.  - Box #9130
Fort and Riverside Aves.  - Box #9410
Hanover and Cromwell Sts.  - Box #9550
Benhill Ave. 50 ft West of Curtis Ave.  - Box #9670
Jeffrey St. and Brooklyn Ave.  - Box #9650
Chesapeake Ave. and Fairfield Rd.  - Box #9680
Pennington Ave. and Locust St.  - Box #9660
Fort Ave. and Woodall St.  - Box #9430
Cross and Race Sts.  - Box #9180
Bridgeview Rd. and Spellman Rd.  - Box #9580
Patapsco Ave. and Hanover St.  - Box #9610
Light and Churchill Sts.  - Box #9320 

Northern

Greenmount Ave. and 27th St. - 396-2156 - 3-Digit Box #564
York Rd and Nicole Ave - 396-2157
York Rd and Evesham Ave.  - 3-Digit Box #565
Charles and University Pkwy. - 396-2158 - 3-Digit Box #566
Cold Spring and Maynadier Lanes - 396-2159  - Box #5460 - 3-Digit Box #567
Old Cold spring and York Rd. -  396-2160 - 3-Digit Box #568
Roland Ave and 36th St - 396-2161 - 3-Digit Box #569
Druid Park Dr. and Park Hgts Ave. - 396-2162   - Box #5560 - 3-Digit Box #570
Cold Spring Lake and Pimlico Rd. - 396-2163 - 3-Digit Box #571
Swimming Pool, Druid Hill Park - 396-2164  - Box #5580 - 3-Digit Box #572
Falls Rd and Kelly Ave. - 396-2165  - Box #5610 - 3-Digit Box #573
Seville Ave. and Pimlico Ave. - 396-2166 - 3-Digit Box #574
Mansion House, Druid Hill Park - 396-2167  - Box #5670 - 3-Digit Box #575
Charles St. and Belvedere Ave. - 396-2168  - Box #5720 - 3-Digit Box #576
Robert E. Lee Memorial Park (Lake Roland) - 396-2169 - 3-Digit Box #577
Whitelock St. and Mason Alley   - Box #5140
22nd St. and Hunter Alley   - Box #5250
34th St. and Chestnut Ave.   - Box #5490
Witherspoon Rd. and Waywell Lane   - Box #5750
Cylburn and Greenspring Ave.   - Box #5650
Stratford Rd. and Charles St.   - Box #5480
36th St. opposite Poole St.   - Box #5520
Park Heights Ave. and Spring Hill Ave.   - Box #6310
Olenly Rd. and Woodland Ave.   - Box #5630
Rogers Ave. and Pimlico Rd.   - Box #6720
Roland Ave and Wyndhurst Aves.  - Box #5730
East Side, Prospect Hill, Druid Hill Park   - Box #5680
On Wall of Tractor Garage, Lake Roland  - Box #5760
Fulton Ave. and Flora St.  - Box #5150
Keswick Rd. and 40th St.  - Box #5450
Virginia Ave. and Pimlico Rd.  - Box #5620
Howards and 27th Sts.  - Box #5410

Northwestern

Gwynns Falls Parkway and Warwick Ave. - 396-2170  - Box #6130 - 3-Digit Box #578
Field House, Hanlon Park - 396-2171 - 3-Digit Box #579
Gwynns Falls Pkwy and Garrison Blvd. - 396-2172  - Box #6230 - 3-Digit Box #580
Cold Spring Lane and Reisterstown Rd. - 396-2173 - 3-Digit Box #581
Park Heights and Belvedere Ave. - 396-2174 - 3-Digit Box #582
Belle and Ayrdale Ave. - 396-2175  - Box #6520 - 3-Digit Box #583
Liberty Heights and Garrison Blvd. - 396-2176 - 3-Digit Box #584
Liberty Heights and Hillsdale - 396-2177  - Box #6530 - 3-Digit Box #585
Belle and Milford Aves. - 396-2178  - Box #6680 - 3-Digit Box #586
Glen and Narcissus - 396-2179  - Box #6710 - 3-Digit Box #587
Rodgers Ave. and Pimlico Ave - 396-2180 - 3-Digit Box #588
Clarks Ln and Reisterstown Rd. - 396-2181  - Box #6740 - 3-Digit Box #589
Front St. and 2103 Ellamont St.  - Box #6220
Hayward and Cuthbert Aves.  - Box #6440
Clifton Ave. and Dennison St.  - Box #6240
Hayward Ave. opposite Eldorado Ave.  - Box #6630
Strathmore 50ft S. Cross County Blvd.  - Box #6730
Clifton Ave. and Longwood St.  - Box #6210
Liberty Heights and Reisterstown Rd.  - Box #5510
Dennison St. S. Liberty Heights Ave.  - Box #6250
Reisterstown Rd. and Garrison Blvd.  - Box #6450
Rodgers Ave. opposite Highgate Drive  - Box #6460 

Southeastern

Baltimore St and Central Ave. - 396-2182 - 3-Digit Box #518
Gay and Exeter Sts. -  396-2183 - 3-Digit Box #519
Gay and Aisquith Sts. - 396-2184  - 3-Digit Box #520
Eastern and Central Sts. - 396-2185 - 3-Digit Box #521
Baltimore St. and Patterson Park Ave.- 396-2186 - 3-Digit Box #522
Broadway and Pratt St.- 396-2187  - Box #2230 - 3-Digit Box #523
Lakewood Ave and Fleet St. - 396-2188 - 3-Digit Box #524
Eastern Ave. and Boulding St. - 396-2189  - Box #2410 - 3-Digit Box #525
Eastern Ave. and Conkling St. - 396-2190 - 3-Digit Box #526
East & Fait Ave. - 396-2191 - 3-Digit Box #527
Haven St and Pulaski Hwy. - 396-2192 - 3-Digit Box # 528
Eastern Ave. and Haven St. - 396-2193 - 3-Digit Box #529
Eastern Ave. and Oldham St. - 396-2194 - 3-Digit Box #530
Boston St. and Dundalk Ave. - 396-2195 - 3-Digit Box #531
Clinton St. at Pier 2 - 396-2196 - 3-Digit Box #532
Broening Hwy and Holabird Ave. - 396-2197 - 3-Digit Box #533
Broening Hwy and Fayette St. - 396-2198  - 3-Digit Box #534
Fayette and Glover Sts.- 396-2199 - 3-Digit Box #535
Wolfe and Monument Sts. - 396-2200 - 3-Digit Box #536
Monument St and Patterson Park Ave. - 396-2201 - 3-Digit Box #537
Newkirk St. and Holabird Ave.   - Box #2720
Lumbard and Haven Sts.   - Box #2560
Eastern Ave. and Hornel St.  - Box #2650
Boston St. and Broening Hwy   - Box #2680
Foster Ave and Umbra SAt.   - Box #2630
Fleet and Patterson Park Ave.  - Box #2350
Oldham and Hudson Sts.  - Box #2620
Fleet and Caroline Sts.   - Box #2150

Western

Reisterstown Rd. and Winsor Ave - 396-2202 - 3-Digit Box #626
Pennsylvania Ave and North Ave. - 396-2203 - 3-Digit Box #627
Fremont Ave and Laurens St. - 396-2204 - 3-Digit Box #628
Fremont Ave and Lafayette Aves. - 396-2205 - 3-Digit Box #629
Parrish and Lanvale Sts. - 396-2206 - 3-Digit Box #630
Baltimore and Schroder Sts. - 396-2207 - 3-Digit Box #631
Baltimore and Carey Sts. - 396-2208 - 3-Digit Box #632
Saratoga and Stricker Sts. - 396-2209  - Box #7580 - 3-Digit Box #633
Baltimore and Gilmor Sts. - 396-2210 - 3-Digit Box #634
Baltimore St. and Franklintown Rd. - 396-2211  - Box #7630 - 3-Digit Box #635
Edmondson Ave and Pulaski St. - 396-2212 - 3-Digit Box #636
Poplar Grove St. and Edmondson Ave. - 396-2213 - 3-Digit Box #637
Lafayette Ave. and Claymont St. - 396-2214 - 3-Digit Box #638
Baker and Pulaski St. - 396-2215 - 3-Digit Box #591
North Ave and Pulaski St. - 396-2216 - 3-Digit Box #592
North Ave and Dukeland Ave. - 396-2217 - 3-Digit Box #593
Pine and Josephine Sts.  - Box #7120
Lafayette Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave.  - Box #7250
Calhoun and Presstman Sts.  - Box #7360
Mosher and Vincent Sts.  - Box #7460
Saratoga and Pulaski Sts.  - Box #7650
Wheeler and Lafayette Aves.  - Box #7750
Baker and Moreland Ave.  - Box #7850
Lexington and Bentalou Sts.  - Box #7540
Lannvale and Poplar Grove Sts.  - Box #7740
Baker and Longwood Sts.  - Box #7880
Winchester and Stricker Sts.  - Box #7410
Franklintown Rd. and Ellicott Dr.  - Box #7780
Ellamont St. and Belmont Ave.  - Box #7830
Front of 909 Edmondson Ave.  - Box #7160

Eastern

Madison St. and Greenmount Ave. - 396-2218 - 3-Digit Box #538
Aisquith and Preston Sts. - 396-2219 - 3-Digit Box #539
Greenmount and North Aves. - 396-2220 - 3-Digit Box #540
Gay and Caroline Sts. - 396-2221 - 3-Digit Box #344
Wolfe and Eager Sts. - 396-2222 - 3-Digit Box #382
Chase St and Broadway - 396-2223 - 3-Digit Box #387
Bond and Federal Sts - 396-2224  - Box #3370 - 3-Digit Box #390
North and Harford Aves. - 396-2225 - 3-Digit Box #545
Patterson Park at the Penn. Railroad - 396-2226 - 3-Digit Box #546
Preston St. west of Edison Hwy.- 396-2227 - 3-Digit Box #547
Chester and Federal Sts. - 396-2228 - 3-Digit Box #548
Bonaparte Ave. near Harford Rd. - 396-2229 - 3-Digit Box #549
Belair Rd. and Sinclair Lane - 396-2230 - 3-Digit Box #431
Greenmount Ave.and 23rd St. 396-2231 - 3-Digit Box #551
Caroline and Monument Sts.   - Box #3170
Monument St. and Lakewood Ave  - Box #3280
Preston St. and Patterson Park - Box #3420
Erdman Ave and Federal St. - Box #3560
Belair Rd. and Frankford Ave. - Box #3630
Chesterfield and Mannasota Ave. - Box #3550
Belair Rd and Parkmont Ave. - Box #4540
Pulaski Hgwy. Opposite Debelius Ave.  - Box #3580
Broadway and Monument St. - Box #3180
Elmley Ave. and Belair Rd. - Box #3520
Broadway and Ashland - Box #3190

Northeastern

Belair Rd. and Erdman Ave. - 396-2232 - 3-Digit Box #281
Pulaski Hwy and Produce Mkt. - 396-2233 - 3-Digit Box #291
Belair Rd and Frankford Ave. - 396-2234 - 3-Digit Box #474
Memorial Stadium - 396-2235 - 3-Digit Box #261
Kirk Ave. and 25th St - 396-2236 - Box #4350 - 3-Digit Box #556
Hillen Rd. and 33rd St - 396-2237 - Box #4290 - 3-Digit Box #557
Coldspring Lane and Harford Rd. - 396-2238 - 3-Digit Box #558
Harford Rd. and Mary Ave. - 396-2239 - Box #4520 - 3-Digit Box #559
Belair Rd. and Kenwood Ave. - 396-2240 - 3-Digit Box #560
Loch Raven Blvd. and Arlington Ave. - 396-2241 - Box #4630 - 3-Digit Box #561
Belvedere Ave. and Loch Raven Blvd. - 396-2242 - Box #4640 - 3-Digit Box #562
Tramore Rd. and Westfield Ave. - 396-2243 - 3-Digit Box #563
South Side of the southwest corner of Sinclair Lane at Herring Run High School - 396-2244
Curtain Ave and Robb St. - Box #4120
Exeter Hall Ave. and Loch Raven Rd. - Box #4230
Ellerslie Ave. and 36th. St. - Box #4420
Loch Raven Blvd. and Belvedere Ave. - Box #4640
Field House and Herring Run Pkwy. - Box #4330
Cator and Wilsby Aves. - Box #4430
York Rd and Evesham Ave. - Box #4620
Harford Rd. opposite Erdman Ave. - Box #4310
Harford Rd. and Moravia Ave. - Box #4340
Harford Rd. and Hamilton Ave. - Box #4510
Harford Rd. and Westfield Ave. - Box #4530
Rose St.Ext. and Belair Rd. Dr.- Box #4350
Argonne Dr and Tivoly Ave. - Box #4460
Coldspring Lane and Ivanhoe Ave. - Box #4450
Gorsuch Ave. and Hamilton Ave. - Box #3640

  

Red Indicates a Standby Call Box Numbers and Locations came from a 1962 directory
The Bold 3 Digit Call Box # came from a 1971 BPD Directory

Special Thanks to John Heiderman, Patrick Youells, Jeff Hewett and Kevin Larmore for providing the info that helped compile this list.

1 black devider 800 8 72

  

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call box 1885 72
Photoshopped Baltimore Callbox
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1

1945 Automatic Flasher on Call Box

Call Box with Recall Light on top

Recall light hit the streets and our Officers came up with a way to have the kids in the neighborhood get involved. The first kid to let the officer know the light was on would get a penny. Officers rarely missed calls, and build a rapport with the kids, which later grew into receiving tips on other wrongdoers in the area.

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museum5

POLICE SOON READY WITH NEW ALARMS

"Recall System" Will Be Completed

In Two Districts Early Next Week.

PLANS CITY-WIDE EXTENSION

Gaither hopes to have All Baltimore Covered by Light Signals next Year.

After delays and complications for more than six months the new police "recall system" will be completed early next week in the Central and Western districts, it was announced yesterday by Charles D. Gaither, Commissioner of Police. This system, conceived by the Commissioner, will be established throughout the city by next year, Mr. Gaither said, providing an appropriation permits it.

Having been tested through experiments with the call-box at Baltimore and Charles streets and in outlying sections of the Northern district, the system is regarded as feasible and satisfactory and is expected to aid in the quick capture of criminals. Through the "recall" patrolmen all over the city can be summoned immediately and instructions were given to the entire force at one time.

How System Works

All police call boxes in the Central and Western districts are being equipped with a red light projecting over the top of the box. A cable connects with the series of boxes to the respective districts and with headquarters. When a patrolman is wanted his box is "flashed." And the light blinks until the telephone receiver is removed from the hook. If the entire force is wanted every box flashes simultaneously until answered. Under the present system, there was no means of obtaining communication with patrolmen on the street. The policemen call their respective districts every hour and between the hours of call unless someone is dispatched to call the officer wanted. There are no means of locating him. When the light flashes the officer will know that his district wants him and will answer.

City-Wide System is Good

“The plan is a good one. I think.” commented Mr. Gaither ... “and by next year we hope to have the system installed in all of the eight districts. If all of our appropriations were sufficient this will be done. We were delayed this year when we received the wrong equipment and had trouble obtaining the correct cable. The siren system, as established in New York banks, was commended by the Commissioner. Banks in downtown New York have been equipped with huge horns that are blown in cases of robbery or hold-ups, and attention is immediately attracted to that point. The idea could be adopted here advantageously.”

Gaither suggested.

3

A MYSTERY POLE LOSES STANDING

AFTER CATCHING PUBLIC EYE, IT FINDS AN UNBLINKING END

Inspector William E. Taylor director of communications for the police department and local highway engineers have written "finis" to the story of Baltimore's mystery pole. The simple green pole, in mid-sidewalk at the northwest corner of the Broadway and Monument street intersection, was taken down at the end of last week. Highway engineers wrote the police several days ago to suggest that it be removed, calling it an "obstruction." CREATES MILD FUROR
The pole, which at one time served as a recall light with a flashing signal to attract policemen to a nearby call box, had become a mystery recently when neither the police nor several city departments would admit having put it there.
It created a mild furor among curious persons who asked about its function and labeled it variously a "hazard" and a possible "bumping post for the blind.” Inspector Taylor said that a pole had stood on that site for some seventeen years. The original pole was hit by a truck early in July, breaking the light bracket at the top and damaging the pole.

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Officer on call box

8

Note - This information on Recall Lights shouldn't be confused with information on Street Lights
Further - If you somehow found this page without having seen the Recall Light System page Click Here

Devider color with motto

Keep checking back for a great story that will go here, we are waiting for the information and confirmation
Please contact Det. Ret. Kenny Driscoll if you have any pictures of you or your family members and wish them remembered here on this tribute site to Honor the fine men and women who have served with Honor and Distinction at the Baltimore Police Department.Anyone with information, photographs, memorabilia, or other "Baltimore City Police" items can contact Ret. Det. Kenny Driscoll at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   follow us on Twitter @BaltoPoliceHist or like us on Facebook or mail pics to 8138 Dundalk Ave. Baltimore Md. 21222 

  Copyright © 2002 Baltimore City Police History - Ret Det Kenny Driscoll

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