Board of Estimates approves $1.5 million for records system; Accuracy in tracking shooting statistics the aim

THE BALTIMORE SUN

With hopes of improving the way Baltimore police track crime statistics and case information, the city Board of Estimates approved a $1.5 million contract yesterday for a new computerized records system.

As the board discussed the system, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke seized the opportunity to say that the city will have a more accurate way of tracking shooting statistics, which have prompted heated debate recently because of how the Police Department has tracked shootings.

"It sounds like it's headed toward solutions to a lot of problems we've been talking about," Schmoke said during the meeting.

The new records system, which will be developed by Thermo Information Solutions Inc., a Columbia-based consulting firm with a division that specializes in law enforcement recordkeeping, is expected to be in place by late October or early November.

"It would clean up the statistics problem that you have in the Police Department," John E. Herold, a contractual city employee who handles the Police Department's computer systems development, told the board. "This will put our information in electronic form."

In November, Schmoke said the city would no longer publicize shooting statistics because of faulty data, which police and city officials had used to support claims of decreased crime in the city.

A University of Maryland, College Park criminologist found in a report released in November that shootings dropped about 33 percent from 1993 to 1997, not the nearly 60 percent police had claimed.

Schmoke and police commanders blamed outdated computer programs for the miscount.

In addition to helping track shooting statistics, Herold said, the new system would keep track of such information as crime witnesses and the cases they were involved in. The data would be available to the courts and state's attorney's office.

Buying the system is one of several steps the Police Department is taking to help crime-fighting efforts.

On Monday night, the council is expected to give final approval to spend about $5.5 million in federal grant money to pay for 100 additional officers and new communication equipment in police cars.

"We want to maximize the time the officers are out on the street," said City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, chairman of the Estimates Board.

Pub Date: 3/11/99

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