Simms may face tough decisions Financial woes may allow some to escape prosecution.


Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms says his office may be unable to prosecute car thieves and non-violent juvenile offenders if a budgetary shortfall forces the layoffs of 21 prosecutors and six support personnel.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke has ordered that the state's attorney's budget -- $10.17 million -- not be increased for fiscal year 1992, beginning July 1.

The city faces a $54.1 million deficit in fiscal 1992 and Schmoke has ordered most departments not to increase their budgets.

Simms told a City Council committee yesterday that an additional $1.3 million is needed to avert layoffs.

Layoffs would force the office to make "tough decisions" on what crimes it would prosecute, Simms told the Budget and Appropriations Committee. He warned that his office might be unable to prosecute some kinds of property crimes and non-violent crimes committed by juveniles.

He also said his office may not be able to prosecute other offenses such as loitering in drug-free zones.

Drug-free zones are designated areas in the city identified as having high narcotics activity. Police have a wide latitude in arresting loiterers in these zones.

"The public might as well get ready for this," Simms said.

To solve the fiscal problem, Simms said the state should pay either all or a substantial portion of the costs of running his office, the busiest in the state.

The state's attorney's office employees 138 attorneys. Last year, the office prosecuted 75,000 cases in District Court, 15,000 in Circuit Court and 5,000 juvenile cases.

A bill now before the General Assembly would put the Baltimore state's attorney's office under state control, but, in light of the state's financial difficulties, the legislation is not given much chance of passing.

Less than $400,000 of the state's attorney's budget goes for operating expenses, the rest is for personnel costs. Calling his budget "fat free," Simms said there isn't much room for flexibility when it comes to cuts.

Clint Coleman, Schmoke's spokesman, said the budget process was still in its preliminary stage. Agencies can still make a case for getting additional funds when their proposed budgets are reviewed by the Board of Estimates, he noted. After the board approves the municipal budget, the council can only cut it.

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