Baltimore is one step closer to expanding its police force by an additional 300 officers.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has instructed Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier to draft a plan describing how he would use the additional officers to crack down on the city's nuisance and violent crimes.
The mayor also announced that he has $10 million for drug treatment as part of his crime fighting strategy. Half that money is from the state and federal government to help substance-abusing welfare recipients quit drugs.
Frazier's plan to add the 300 police officers could be completed next week. And Schmoke said yesterday that if he approves of the police commissioner's direction, he will lobby the City Council to come up with a way to pay the $10 million annual price tag.
"I would rule out any property tax increase," Schmoke said yesterday. But, "we don't want to propose anything until we get this plan."
The plan would answer how the officers would be deployed, what their impact on crime would be in the short term and in the long term, Schmoke said.
Though the mayor's move comes as a swift response to Frazier's public plea for more officers this week, city leaders have been grappling with crime issues since summer.
Frazier said in a recent eight-page open letter to communities that it would be "irresponsible" not to bolster his 3,200-officer police force during a time of "worsening crime conditions."
Schmoke said that he has talked to several council members about finding enough money to hire officers and he has instructed his chief financial officer to look at the city's budget.
But at a time when the city's coffers are shrinking, it is unlikely that the city could find enough money in the budget to pay for so many officers. Therefore, some kind of tax is likely.
Plan has opposition
But the council has been very reluctant to raise taxes. Last month, 4th District Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. could not garner enough support to back a 2 percent piggyback income tax increase.
And the two chief criminal justice reform proponents in the council, President Lawrence A. Bell III and Martin O'Malley, have said that the city can crack down on nuisance and violent crimes with the existing police force.
Fourth District Councilwoman Sheila Dixon said yesterday that she has talked to the mayor about raising money for more police officers.
"My whole philosophy in the process is that everybody has to contribute to this pot, not just property tax payers," Dixon said.
Schmoke's latest action comes just weeks after the announcement of two other important crime-fighting initiatives:
Last week, State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy announced that she was implementing a new 14-member division that will concentrate on investigating and prosecuting gun cases, from routine arrests for illegal possession to the elaborate schemes of convicted felons who buy and rent guns.
Last month, Schmoke announced a plan that would use computer tracking systems and cooperation from state police and other agencies to collar more of Baltimore's most violent criminals.
Zero tolerance wanted
Bell and O'Malley turned up the heat on Schmoke and Frazier's crime fighting last summer when they went on a fact-finding trip to New York City to see how that area brought the crime rate down.
New York began a strategy of zero tolerance, a term for an intensive crackdown on petty crimes as a way of lowering the overall crime rate. For months, Bell and O'Malley have been trying to pressure the mayor into beginning zero tolerance in Baltimore.
"If we want to move from a limited tolerance to New York-style zero tolerance, we have to have additional officers," Schmoke said. "Are we willing to pay for additional officers?" The mayor's drug plan will treat nearly 5,000 heroin and cocaine users in the city by with more counseling, inpatient care and drug prevention.
Some $5 million in city funds will allow the mayor to add about 1,800 more drug treatment slots, 30 percent more than the current 5,700. Schmoke pooled the money from housing, health and police department budgets.
The remaining $5 million in state and federal funds will expand detoxification programs, referral services and intermediate care programs.
The state and local drug programs will be in operation by July 1, Schmoke said.
Pub Date: 2/21/97