By Justin George and Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun
7:16 PM EDT, April 21, 2014
Baltimore police want to model a homicide prevention program after the city of Milwaukee, open a new center to hold youths who break curfew and use $1.2 million in city gambling revenue to pay for overtime and staffing in high-crime areas.
Those are some of the proposals in a nearly $2.2 million crime-prevention proposal submitted Monday to the city's spending panel.
In a written request to the Board of Estimates, police said they want to spend $1.2 million to deploy "surges" of officers to hard-hit areas. Kevin Harris, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the money would cover staffing costs, including overtime.
Those increased costs will face scrutiny. City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, chairman of the Board of Estimates, said he's reluctant to endorse overtime spending without an analysis of how it will reduce crime. He has requested a review but hasn't yet received the data.
"I want to see real crime reduction tied to overtime," Young said. He requested an additional week to review that part of the proposal, which means it will likely come before the board April 30. Other proposals in the package can move forward this week.
The $1.2 million would pay for a continued shift in how Baltimore police patrol the city's most dangerous areas. Commanders expanded their heavily monitored enforcement "zones" last year from four areas in East and West Baltimore to 17 citywide. The program reached full operation in late January.
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said this month that commanders have begun using as many as 10 different waves or shifts of patrols in those areas to keep drug dealers off guard.
Police officials believe the strategies are working. After beginning the year with 27 homicides in January — one of the city's worst starts in recent years — Baltimore recorded 10 killings in February and seven in March, the city's lowest monthly figure since June 1983.
As of Monday, 53 people had been killed in the city in 2014, 11 fewer than at this time last year and four fewer than at this time in 2011 when the city finished under 200 homicides for the first time in decades.
Police and city officials have been looking at crime strategies in other cities as ways to reduce the city's crime rate and have asked for $195,000 to review and create a committee modeled after the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, according to city documents.
The Milwaukee group studies the city's homicides to find crime prevention strategies using help from public health and criminal justice programs.
Established in January 2005, Milwaukee's commission members "participate in an intensive discussion and examination of individual homicide and intentional crime incidents," according to the program's website.
Members aim to spot crime trends, city service gaps, and funding or staffing deficits in programs that could affect violent crime.
Batts has said enforcing and strengthening the city's curfew law will help keep teens from getting into trouble on the streets, and earlier this year Rawlings-Blake announced the opening of several 24-hour Youth Connection Centers.
The city is seeking $195,000 for a center where police will drop off curfew breakers in a "safe, non-punitive environment until their parents or guardians arrive," a city memo said. Harris said the city hopes to open its first center by mid-June. No location has been set.
Police also want $60,000 in reward money for tips that help officers recover illegal guns.
The mayor's administration is also seeking $415,800 to start up Operation CeaseFire, a program in which crime prevention specialists monitor and meet with past offenders to prevent future violence.
The money would pay for one staff member at a cost of $75,000 a year, while the majority of the money will go to the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, which is helping run the program, and pay administrative costs, Harris said.
Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said community policing strategies in the proposals will allow the city to combat crime "the right way, by helping children and families progress."
"It is another effort that allows us to think outside the box," Scott said. "For too long, Baltimore has been focused on arrest, arrest, arrest."
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