A safer city Baltimore crime rate: Neighborhoods rising up against criminals, but not as vigilantes.


GIVE THE police force and the police commissioner credit for Baltimore's dramatic decrease in crime so far this year. But also applaud the people of this city who have forged a new commitment to work with law enforcement and other agencies to rid their neighborhoods of both criminals and the environments that produce crime.

Violent crime is down nearly 20 percent for the first three months of 1997, and property crime is 14 percent lower. Those numbers are significant. Part of the credit for the decline must go to neighborhood watch groups that make drug dealers know they are unwelcome, volunteers who run after-school programs that keep children out of trouble and citizens who clean up their blocks, get to know each other and send a message to criminals that people aren't going to stand idly by while crooks make their neighbors victims.

Crime is dropping because of efforts such as the federally funded Comprehensive Communities Program. In neighborhoods such as Boyd Booth, Fayette Street Outreach, New Southwest, Sandtown-Winchester, Middle East, Carrollton Ridge and Harlem Park, this program is providing the means for neighborhood residents to use nuisance-abatement laws to evict drug-dealing tenants, the money to board up vacant houses and the time to develop long-term plans for community improvements.

Crime is dropping because of police officers like Will Narango, who is using a tried and true method that never should have fallen out of fashion: Walking his beat and getting to know the people. He is the "sheriff" of Carrollton Ridge and New Southwest. He's the law, and people appreciate him for being there when they have a problem. And Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier deserves credit for, among other things, hiring civilian workers and moving 330 officers from desk jobs to street patrol.

Baltimore lagged behind the rest of the nation in lower crime rates. But, finally, even homicides are down in the city, with 75 reported as of Wednesday compared with 89 at the same time a year ago. The next steps must be taken. The commissioner wants to hire 300 more officers. Improvements also need to be made at central booking, in the state's attorney's office and in the courts. It will take teamwork to sustain the progress that has been made.

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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