8-12-11: Baltimore Elections 2011 — Crime
Crime is a perennial problem in Baltimore and today it’s the topic of our election coverage series. Twice a week we’ve been asking all the mayoral candidates a question about one of Baltimore’s issues, today’s question was: How will you address the problem of crime in our city?
We hear how the issue of crime is playing out in the campaigns from Justin Fenton, crime reporter from the Baltimore Sun. And Ralph Taylor, professor of criminal justice at Temple University and author of Breaking away from broken windows: Baltimore Neighborhoods and the nationwide fight against crime, grime, fear and decline.
We heard from four of the mayoral candidates in response to our question, their full responses are listed below.
First, we have to restore public trust and confidence in the police department in order to achieve better results in combating crime. In the aftermath of the failed zero tolerance policies adopted by a previous administration, recent towing scandals in the department and the arrest of an officer accused of drug dealing have further eroded public trust and negatively affected morale among police ranks. Making neighborhoods safe and reducing crime requires that citizens and police have a productive partnership built on trust and confidence.
There is no one simple answer to dealing with crime, it has to be addressed in a holistic manner. Increasing the number of police officers on the street is certainly a part of the solution, along with targeting the arrest and prosecution of the most violent offenders. However, just increasing enforcement efforts is not enough, we also have to maintain preventative programs like recreation activities, youth athletic leagues and after school programs in order to deter young people from falling into criminal and self destructive behaviors. Improving overall school performance and increasing attendance and graduation rates are also part of the answer to having a safer city.
A major share of the crime in Baltimore City is directly related to illicit drug use. I would work to make it easier for addicts to legally access opioid substitute treatments like buprenorphine, in order to break free from the destructive criminal behaviors associated with addiction. We need to overcome the bias against opioid substitute treatments and recognize that just like pain tolerance, people have different levels of addiction – some may require medication for a brief period and others for a prolonged period or permanently in order to get their lives back together.
Finally, the criminal justice system needs to limit the amount time and resources spent in pursuing victimless crimes – for example: I would seek to raise the threshold for praying a jury trial for the possession of small quantities of marijuana, because juries are reluctant to convict offenders on such minor charges and yet these cases consume a great deal of time and effort on the part of prosecutors, police and the court system.
Baltimore is a city suffering from a serious crime problem. If we do not act now, we will continue to experience declining neighborhoods, lack of jobs and investments.
In talking with police, community leaders, neighbors, faith leaders, school officials, business and philanthropic leaders and stakeholders it is clear that our crime reduction strategy must take several approaches if we are going to turn the tide and make Baltimore a safer, cleaner and healthier city.
As Mayor, Catherine Pugh will pursue a smart, targeted, and multifaceted strategy to prevent and control crime. From raising the trust and confidence our neighbors have in the police department to engaging our youth and giving them opportunities to succeed, Catherine Pugh’s plan gives law enforcement the resources they need, and provides our youth with a pathway to success.
Overhaul the Police Department –
• Immediate audit of citywide crime statistics
• Create an office of Inspector General within the department to ensure the highest standards and integrity
• Return a sense of pride and professionalism in the department by encouraging professional training, accreditations and continuing education, and re-establish a tuition assistance program
•Create an office of public safety to connect the community to crime prevention and include all stakeholders such as police, fire, educators, community representatives, prosecutors, all city agencies Strengthen Citizens on Patrols and include the model taking place in SW Baltimore called Citizens on Patrol without Borders where groups work together across the city.
Create a Citizens Police Academy to allow community and police officers to interact on a formal basis to understand the goals, mission and history of the police and help police understand different cultural identities and first-hand interaction with people in communities where problems are occurring.
The most important component of Senator Pugh’s public safety strategy is creating opportunities for young people that deter them from getting involved in crime in the first place.
• Year round internships, not just a summer job, that partners with the business and philanthropic communities to put young people to work in various fields and gives them work experience and a stipend
• Create a Distributive Education program that allows young people to work half a day and go to school half a day
• Keep community and recreation centers open with added help from the faith community, college students, retired teachers, retired police officers and community non-profits and businesses that not only give young people a safe place to play but also offers mentorships, homework assistance, job training, life skills counseling and alternatives to crime and gangs.
Identifies the 300 young people in the city most likely to be involved in gun violence either as a shooter or as a victim and provide them with intense wrap around community based services.
• Build bridges between youth and law enforcement by creating a youth cadet program in high schools and work with the police department and federal and state governments to create a pipeline for young people to attend local colleges and pursue careers in law enforcement.
And much much more.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Crime is down in Baltimore. Murder is at its lowest in 26 years, but I know that that’s not enough if you don’t feel safe in your neighborhood. Like many people in Baltimore, a family member of mine was a victim of violent crime and that’s something you live with every day of your life. My public safety plan will lock up criminals with a history of violence, continue to toughen laws on illegal guns, put hundreds of new police officers on the streets and invest in new technology to give police the tools that they need. I’m also working with neighborhoods, community activists and religious leaders to make sure that these policies protect all of our citizens. It won’t be easy but as your Mayor I am doing everything in my power to make every neighborhood in Baltimore safer. My opponents say that we don’t need more police officers but at community association meetings across our city I’ve never heard people say that we don’t need more police officers on the street. Their irresponsible economic plans would also wreck the city budget and force major cuts across the board: in youth services, in schools, in fire protection and in the police department. That’s what the Tea Party is doing to our national government, and I will not allow that to happen in Baltimore.
If elected Mayor I would terminate the present police commissioner and provide a new training program for police officers. I would also offer higher pay to attract better/more qualified applicants. Recruiting those who live in Baltimore City rather than those who travel from the surrounding counties will help. I would also take politics out the of the police department.