Charging that major crimes in Baltimore have increased by 41 percent during Kurt L. Schmoke's eight years as mayor, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke pledged yesterday to boost the city's police force by about 300 and aggressively pursue community policing if elected.
Mrs. Clarke, who is challenging Mr. Schmoke in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, held the second in a series of three %J announcements to detail her campaign's anti-crime platform. Last week, she stood at a street corner in Reservoir Hill known for drug dealing to declare a "zero tolerance" approach to drug use.
Near a snowball stand in the 1700 block of Castle St. in East Baltimore yesterday, Mrs. Clarke criticized the city's attempts at community policing, instituted under the Schmoke administration, as nothing more than "promises" because of a citywide shortage of police officers.
She pledged to spend $8 million to hire 216 officers for the community policing efforts. Using personnel figures supplied by the Fraternal Order of Police, she said she also would boost the number of uniformed police officers from 3,128 to 3,252. City officials say the police force consists of 3,088 officers.
Funding for the new officers would come from cuts Mrs. Clarke would institute in the city's operating budget, including elimination of all legal fees paid to private law firms -- anticipated to save up to $3 million, said Cheryl Benton, Mrs. Clarke's campaign manager.
"I'm standing at the place where community policing was to begin in Baltimore City -- but it's the place where community policing never got started at all," Mrs. Clarke said. "Today, we have fewer police officers than we have ever had in the Eastern District -- and there are only seven officers committed to community policing here."
Clinton R. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke's spokesman, issued a statement yesterday that disputed Mrs. Clarke's criticisms.
Pointing to Schmoke initiatives such as police bicycle patrols, police youth activity leagues, police sub-stations throughout Baltimore and even a Japanese-style koban -- a community policing booth -- at Howard and Lexington Streets, the mayor defended his actions in the statement.
"Many people in the communities recognize that we've instituted community policing and our actions are doing more to make communities safe than is her talking," the statement said.
In April, Mr. Schmoke unveiled a proposed 1996 city budget that recommended a $6.2 million increase for the city police department that, coupled with federal and state aid, would allow his administration to hire 111 officers.
In addition, Mr. Schmoke's police commissioner, Thomas C. Frazier, pledged in late April to reorganize the police department based on recommendations by a private consultant who concluded the department is top-heavy with administrators. Under the reorganization, at least 300 officers would move from desk jobs to street patrol while civilians would replace officers now assigned to administrative jobs.