President Clinton, at Howard County's Mayfield Woods Middle School yesterday, called on Congress to continue funds to stop the "dangerous rise in juvenile violence" and awarded almost $1 million to Baltimore for new police officers to fight gangs and drugs.
"I am so sick and tired of picking up the newspaper and reading stories about honor students standing at bus stops and being shot down," Mr. Clinton said.
The $1 million grant to Baltimore was one of 10 announced by the Department of Justice to encourage police to find new ways to fight youth violence. It will pay for 24 more officers for enforcement and juvenile activities in Northwest and South Baltimore, city police said.
An enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,500 Howard County students, parents, educators and politicians on the school's front parking lot withstood a glaring sun to embrace the president's visit.
The president came to the Elkridge middle school to kick off a national drug awareness campaign known as the Red Ribbon Celebration and to mark the one-year anniversary of his anti-crime bill. The bill banned assault weapons and provided billions of dollars to hire more police officers and build new prisons.
Mr. Clinton told Mayfield Woods students that marijuana use is on the rise among U.S. teen-agers, adding: "It's wrong, it's illegal, it's dangerous, it's a horrible first step, and we have got to turn that around."
Proposed congressional cuts to such federal legislation as the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act will worsen violent crime, Mr. Clinton said. Under these proposals, Maryland would lose $3.5 million, more than half the federal money it receives to pay for school drug prevention programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Among those joining Mr. Clinton at the school yesterday were White House drug control policy Director Lee P. Brown, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.
After the ceremony, Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier pledged that city will use the new $1 million grant to fight rising juvenile crime in the Park Heights and Cherry Hill neighborhoods through stricter enforcement and more activities for juveniles. "We'll go in there and clean it up, taking back the streets for them to be safe for the kids," Mr. Frazier said.