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Homicide editorial should have included ways to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Homicide editorial should have included ways to prevent crime

The editorial "Getting away with murder" (Feb. 14) states: "Much of the blame for Baltimore's inability to address its prolonged murder crisis lies in the breakdown of the normal defenses put into place to protect a city's residents: police, prosecutors, courts and corrections institutions."

While I agree that changes are necessary (and they are occurring) within the city's justice system, I disagree with the editorial because it suggests that institutional problems within the criminal justice system are directly related to the city's high homicide rate.

The editorial discusses possible reasons for the murder rate, various problems afflicting the criminal justice system in Baltimore City and recommendations for improvement.

But it misses an important point: By the time the police, prosecutors, judges or jails ever see the face of a murderer, a life has been lost. Therefore, any real solution to the homicide problem should include a means to prevent killing.

Placing a million police officers on every corner cannot prevent a drug-related murder inside a rowhouse in East Baltimore; the fifth postponement of a case has no impact on a drug deal gone bad that results in a murder; an overcrowded jail has no effect on an unemployed man who commits a robbery to feed his drug habit or his family.

Many of these killers and violent criminals have progressed sadly, but logically, from troubled children in the city's juvenile justice system to violent offenders in the adult system.

Yet the article fails to deal with solutions for our young people. Why is access to guns so easy? Why is a life of hustling so appealing?

The best way to stop a leak is to plug it at its source.

If The Sun and politicians are serious about addressing the crisis of murders and guns, they may want to spend some time discussing strategies and implementing solutions to allow our young people opportunities to develop into something more than tomorrow's headline.

Moreover, writers at The Sun should use their influence, whether real or imagined, to promote change in the areas of youth services and juvenile justice. The Sun should give equal time to tracking the inadequacies of the city's services to our young and poor and offer potential solutions, as it did for the alleged "breakdown of the criminal justice system machinery in Baltimore."

Although my suggestion may not be politically expedient or front-page quality, it deals substantively with the homicide problem in which the media and the politicians appear to be so interested.

Finally, Baltimore's leaders may want to speak with the wise men and women of New York and Boston to discover that the reduction in crime was aided by an influx of positive programs that provided young people with an alternative to a life of violent crime.

Baltimore City should spend its energy on real solutions because preventing a murder is the surest way to alleviate the problem of people getting away with one.

Michael Finley, Baltimore

Homicide, courts editorial should be required reading

Your splendid editorial "Getting away with murder" should be mandatory reading for every city official and, indeed, for every citizen in the city and suburbs.

Lots of people share blame for Baltimore's depressing homicide rate, but your painstaking research makes clear that the two men with the greatest capacity to improve this tragic situation must cast aside some ideological baggage before real progress can be made.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's unswerving commitment to civil liberties is the kind of thing that impresses law school professors and wins moot court competitions. But in the real world, where this reflex has translated into a decade-long hiring freeze in the State's Attorney's Office and an implacable reluctance ever to get tough on crime, the result is that people die.

And Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier's commitment to diversity, which he interprets as a requirement that personnel be reassigned so regularly that his department resembles a merry-go-round, has produced similar ill effects.

It is shocking that the efficiency of the department's homicide unit has been compromised in a naive belief this will eliminate a glass ceiling for women and minorities.

Ideas have consequences. And, as Baltimoreans have seen for these past years, bad ideas can have fatal consequences.

Steve Walters, Lutherville

Too much empathy for freed defendants

I have read the article "Seemingly solid case evaporates" (Feb. 4), and I am appalled by the empathy given to Christopher Wills and Kevin Cox. Those two men are made out to be the victims.

It is stated over and over that poor Mr. Wills wanted his constitutional right of a speedy trial.

What about the rights of the real victims in this case? We can only be thankful that our streets were a little safer while these men awaited their trials.

Diane Dritt Amin, Phoenix

Mentally ill people have no right to guns

A young lawyer has nearly lost his life because a mentally ill individual bought a gun. It makes no sense. We have the resources to prevent this. Why can't we build a database that has names of any individual who has been prescribed drugs for mental illness?

No one in the database gets a gun. Mentaly ill people have as much a right to a gun as a blind man has a right to drive.

Dennis Olver, Baltimore

Time to stop corporations from grabbing subsidies

I am writing to express my strong agreement with the letter "Someone should say no to special deals for Marriott" (Feb. 5). The idea that taxpayers should be giving handouts to large corporations is a stupid idea.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense will realize that this type of handout will only escalate as more and more companies come to realize these funds from the government are available. If we give Marriott $50 million this year, you can bet that General Motors will want $150 million for a new minivan plant.

It won't be long before large companies will have special departments to come up with ways to extort money from taxpayers.

Now is the time to stop this practice before it gets totally out of hand, before it becomes necessary for states and local governments to go to Congress to ask for laws to outlaw the practice nationwide.

Eugene T. Rohe, Baltimore

Ratepayers (as taxpayers) should not fund utilities

I thought the whole point of deregulating the electric utilities was to bring lower prices to ratepayers. Now the utilities are seeking a $44 million tax break, at our expense.

Taxpayers and ratepayers are mostly the same people, after all.

Will rate-payers save more than $44 million in lower electric rates when the industry is deregulated? If that hasn't been proven, how can the tax break be justified?

Kirsten A. Burger, Monkton

Reagan slept in last term and so did the news media

Suspicions confirmed. After reading the article "While Reagan slept, so did media" (Feb. 7), it's crystal clear, after all these years of silence, that President Reagan has suffered from pronounced symptoms of Alzheimer's disease at least since June 1986. The evidence is very reliable and overwhelming.

With President Reagan fading in and out of awareness for nearly three years of his second term, if not longer, who was running the government? With things so apparent, how many people were involved in the cover-up?

Also, who is in control of the news media? There is no way that editors all over the nation could choose not to report, for nearly three years, that the president had pronounced symptoms of Alzheimer's and was, for all practical purposes, out to lunch. Yet that is precisely what happened.

Many of these same editors turned around and systematically dogged and harassed the next Democratic president.

Patricia Williams, Baltimore

To our readers

The Sun welcomes letters from readers. They should be no longer than 200 words and should include the name and address of the writer, along with day and evening telephone numbers.

Send letters to Letters to the Editor, The Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278-0001. Our fax number for letters is 410-332-6977. The e-mail address is letters@baltsun.com.

All letters are subject to editing.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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