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Rolley: Rawlings-Blake lacks real crime plan

Mayoral challenger Otis Rolley visited the block where a 91-year-old woman was stabbed to death this week to charge that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lacks a "real plan" to reduce crime.

"Instead of providing leadership or proposing a real plan to make every neighborhood safer, she's running campaign commercials touting a drop in crime that began under another mayor," Rolley said Friday, outside Northeast Middle School. "She knows crime is too high, and she has no plan to make us safer."

Rolley, one of several candidates challenging Rawlings-Blake in the Democratic primary next month, said her strategy focuses only on catching criminals and not on reducing crime.

His plan, he said, goes beyond law enforcement to include proposals to increase spending on youth programs and reduce recidivism by "eliminating barriers for ex-offenders."

Rawlings-Blake released radio and television ads this week saying she has worked to strengthen gun laws and avoided laying off police officers in tough budget times.

Since taking office in January 2010, she has largely continued the policies of predecessor Sheila Dixon while adding more surveillance cameras.

The decline in Baltimore's homicide rate last year to its lowest level in 22 years coincides with a national drop in crime; the city remains among the deadliest in the United States.

Rolley, who was the city's planning director under Mayor Martin O'Malley, spoke after a week that saw two 15-year-olds gunned down in Southwest Baltimore and 91-year-old Irene Logan — the mother of a family friend of Rawlings-Blake — fatally stabbed in her home in the 4700 block of Moravia Road. The number of homicides in the city is up slightly over this time a year ago.

Rawlings-Blake's campaign hit back by mocking Rolley's anti-crime plan, which includes the institution of a bullet tax. The idea got nationwide attention, though much of it was negative.

"His crime plan is literally a joke from Chris Rock," said Rawlings-Blake campaign spokeswoman Keiana Page, referring to a routine in which the comedian jokes that shootings would drop if bullets were more expensive.

"Crime in Baltimore is a serious challenge that needs serious solutions," Page said. Rawlings-Blake's strategy to reduce crime "is not only real, but it is working."

Page noted declines in the murder rate and in gun crimes in the city.

Other challengers also have criticized Rawlings-Blake on crime. State Sen. Catherine Pugh said she would audit Police Department statistics and reorganize the agency. Former City Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers has spoken about drug treatment programs and wants police commanders to be more accessible. Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. says his platform is "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Rolley said he wants to create a public safety cabinet that would bring together officials from the police, housing, social services, schools and recreation and parks to come up with ways that their agencies can complement one another.

Rolley, who as chief of staff to Mayor Dixon advised her to hire District of Columbia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, has offered muted endorsements of Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.

"You saw a sharp difference when Bealefeld was reporting to the last elected mayor and when he started reporting to the current appointed mayor," Rolley said. "We started seeing a spike in crime when the Police Department stopped feeling like they had a mayor that had their back. The main change needs to happen at City Hall."

Homicides in Baltimore are up slightly this year, with 129 people killed through Thursday compared with 124 at the same time last year. Nonfatal shootings were flat through the end of July, compared with a year ago, while overall gun crimes were up 6 percent. The overall crime rate is unchanged.


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