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Frustration with crime evident at public safety summit

Law EnforcementAnthony BattsGovernmentSafety of Citizens

The written questions from the audience of more than 100 people came fast and furious on cards read aloud by City Councilman Bill Henry, moderator of the 3rd annual Public Safety Summit at Morgan State University on Saturday.

What can city police do about underage drinking, motorists not stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks, and juveniles who are arrested for breaking into homes and then end up back out on the street, doing it again?

Why is Roland Park less crime-prone than Cherry Hill?

How can residents trust the city state's Attorney's Office to prosecute police for alleged use of excessive force when prosecutors and police work so closely together?

Those were some of the questions that a panel comprised of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Northeastern Police District Commander Major Richard Worley, City Council President Bernard C. Jack Young and city State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein tried to answer at the summit.

Agencies must work together to combat crime, "and make sure we get it right," Rawlings-Blake said. She said the city in contract negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police is pushing for more "feet on the street" at peak hours, "when we know we're having the issues."

Summit co-organizer Eileen Gwynn, past president of the York Road Partnership, said the summit, themed "Weaving Safe Communities," was designed to educate attendees about the importance of partnerships in the fight against crime.

Henry said the summit was "an opportunity to increase awareness of potential strategies to help keep neighborhoods safer."

The panel was a little patched together after Police Commissioner Anthony Batts canceled, citing a conflict. Rawlings-Blake, who was only supposed to make opening remarks at the summit, substituted for Batts, but was running late, so Worley jumped up from the audience and subbed for her.

The summit was co-sponsored by the York Road Partnership, which serves mostly communities in north Baltimore, and by the Northeast Community Organization and HARBELL, Inc., both of which serve mostly northeast Baltimore. The summit brought together communities as contrasting as Guilford and Pen Lucy.

"It's important that Guilford show up," said Lynda Riley, representing the Guilford Association. "Problems in Pen Lucy and Waverly become our problems."

Riley, an association board member, talked at length with a representative from the Pen Lucy Action Network. She said in an interview that the community had a lot of break-ins last September and that one juvenile broke into three houses.

"He kept getting arrested and getting out," she said. "The police are doing their jobs, but the juvenile courts aren't."

Bernstein said prosecutors track the 200 juveniles most likely to be repeat offenders.

Young said services should be provided for the juveniles' families.

"If it's a repeat, we need to find out the root causes," he said.

Many questions reflected a perception that more police should be prosecuted for excessive force. Bernstein said his office has prosecuted 20 officers since he was elected in 2010.

As for why Roland Park has relatively little crime, Worley, former deputy commander of the Northern District, had a simple answer that drew applause.

"Those neighborhoods don't accept the crime," Worley said, urging people to call police and report crimes or suspicious activities. "The neighborhoods that don't accept the crime don't have the crime."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Law EnforcementAnthony BattsGovernmentSafety of Citizens
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