The mayor, the City Council and possibly the citizens of Baltimore are not understanding what the responsibility of our police department is. The police do not "prevent" crimes. The murders that were described in your recent article could not have been prevented by the police department ("Police officials before council after violent start to 2014," Jan. 7).

The police investigate crimes and arrest the perpetrators of those crimes. A police presence in a given community might deter a crime, but the reality is that most criminals are not going to forego committing a crime just because they fear being apprehended by the police.

If crimes are to be prevented, the city must look at the communities in which the most violent crimes occur and try and understand the depressing conditions under which people must live that lead them to criminal behavior as a matter of survival.

The mayor and City Council need to understand and implement programs that actually "prevent" crimes. The Band-Aid solutions suggested in your report will not lead to a reduction in crime. A long-range, five, 10 or 20-year plan that provides better community resources in high crime areas might be a start. My guess is that the cities where reductions in violent crime have occurred offer opportunities to their young people that give them more positive avenues to success.

The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks barely receives 2 percent of the city's budget. Doubling that budget, hiring young, passionate, altruistic graduates of local colleges as rec center directors and leaders and implementing a comprehensive recreation plan that addresses the needs of young people in the city's most depressed areas might be a start.

We should shut down the ridiculously antiquated, hole-in-the-wall community centers and build state-of-the-art multi-purpose facilities with large gyms, pools and other amenities. Maryland is considering spending a half billion dollars on a new jail. Instead of that, it could spend a fourth as much on really nice recreation facilities. Over the long term, a half billion dollar jail would no longer be needed.

Better recreation services alone are not going to solve the city's crime problem, and unfortunately there is no short-term solution to the horrendous crimes that have occurred in the first weeks of 2014, despite the police department's best efforts to stop them.

There are solutions, however, and those solutions will begin to see fruition when long-term crime-prevention initiatives are developed and implemented by the city.

Mike Naugle, Mt. Airy

The writer is a former program coordinator for the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks.

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