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GBC calls for more effective treatment for drug abusers Addiction, youth crimes termed threat to economy


A study to be released today by the Greater Baltimore Committee calls for more effective treatment of drug addiction and new ways of countering juvenile crime to ward off more serious harm to the Baltimore region's economic vitality.

The report, called "Smart on Crime," was produced over the past six months by a 16-member group of corporate executives. It cites the economic realities of the failed policies to combat drug addiction -- called the cause of many crimes -- and the alarming escalation of juvenile crime.

The report proposes a "businesslike approach to crime," said Decatur H. Miller, chairman of the GBC's public safety steering committee. "We've signed on for the long run," said Mr. Miller, former chairman of the GBC and the retired chairman of the Baltimore law firm Piper & Marbury.

Citing the estimated 50,000 drug addicts in Baltimore, each of whom needs $100 a day to support his or her habit, the 16-page report says "drug treatment is the anti-crime strategy steeped in good sense."

Every dollar spent on drug treatment means avoiding $7 in the cost of crimes that would be committed had addicts not received treatment, the report says. Yet, it adds, state and federal governments are continuing to slash drug-treatment funds.

Mr. Miller said the executives who produced the report must convince the business community and others that drug treatment, as opposed to incarceration, is not soft on crime but makes good economic sense.

The GBC also concludes that:

* With the growing wave of juvenile crime, coupled with the rising population of juveniles, Baltimore sorely needs a juvenile justice center to house offenders and handle prosecutions.

* More than 70 percent of drug users are employed -- and responsible for 40 percent of all fatal industrial accidents. Therefore, it says, workplace drug testing should be used more widely as a strong deterrent to drug use.

* Innovative approaches, such as the Mid-Town Manhattan Community Court in New York City, are needed to combat minor crimes that add to the public's perception of an unsafe community. In Manhattan, misdemeanors such as vandalism, illegal vending and "aggressive panhandling" are prosecuted and punished the same day as the offense.

Maryland ranks sixth in the nation in violent arrests among juveniles, the report says. In the last three years, the number of young people referred to the city juvenile justice system jumped 73 percent, it says.

"It makes better economic sense to spend far fewer dollars today working with the troubled six-year-olds who are on a track to become the 16-year-old criminals in 2005," the report says.

Among the members of the GBC study group that produced the report are: Carl W. Stearn, chairman of Provident Bank; James T. Brady, secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development; Ward B. Coe III, managing partner of the Whiteford, Taylor & Preston law firm; Anthony Deering, president of the Rouse Co.; and Dr. Morton I. Rapaport, president of the University of Maryland Medical System.

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