Mayoral candidate state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh said Thursday she would audit police statistics, implement a program to seize guns from young people and create a watch list of children most likely to become involved in violence.
"If we're going to solve crime in our community, we need to focus on young people," Pugh said at a morning news conference at her East Baltimore campaign headquarters.
Pugh said she would create a program that would allow police to confiscate guns from juveniles without levying criminal charges. Under "Operation Disarm Our Youth," parents, teachers and social workers worried that a young person may have a gun could arrange for police to search the youth's home — with parents' permission — and seize weapons.
Campaign staffers for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is running to keep her post against a crowded Democratic field in the Sept. 13 primary, issued a news release saying that Pugh presented a "stolen public safety plan" calling for tougher gun laws as the mayor had done. Rawlings-Blake campaign spokeswoman Keiana Page said the news release referred to a point on Pugh's website that urges stricter gun laws.
Pugh's campaign fired back, saying that the mayor's news release represented "a desperate attempt ... to distract citizens from the fact that she has been absent from the conversation with the community and doesn't really have a comprehensive plan for reducing the growing violence in our city."
The seven-page crime prevention plan that Pugh unveiled Thursday does not mention tougher gun laws. While Pugh's campaign said she supports the idea, that's not a centerpiece of her proposal.
Pugh also would target 300 children most likely to perpetrate or be victims of gun crimes and provide mentoring and monitoring to prevent them from being involved in violence. She would establish a "youth crime" section in each police district that would focus on kids teetering on falling into crime and expand the police cadet program in high schools.
Pugh said she would seek help from philanthropists, businesses and nonprofits to expand job programs for young people and recreation centers to provide constructive opportunities for youth.
Pugh questioned the accuracy of police statistics and said she would immediately call for an audit of the department if she were elected mayor.
She rejected Rawlings-Blake's plan to hire 300 police officers to fill vacant positions and said she would raise standards to join the force. Pugh also said she would reinstate a tuition reimbursement program for officers that Rawlings-Blake eliminated as part of last year's budget cuts.
Pugh repeatedly vowed that her plan would not cost the city additional money. She has said she could eliminate $12 million from the police budget through greater efficiency. And many of her youth programs would rely on private funding, she said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun