Republican mayoral candidate David F. Tufaro yesterday picked up the endorsement of an African-American community group opposing Democratic nominee Martin O'Malley's plans to implement zero tolerance.
Group leaders from Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM), a small group of Southwest Baltimore community activists, said yesterday that they will back Tufaro, who supports the organization's call to create an intensive three-year drug rehabilitation and job training program. TEAM is pushing for more drug rehabilitation in the city.
Standing outside the former Montgomery Ward building at Monroe Street and Washington Boulevard, a group member said drug treatment should remain the focus of the city's crime-fighting strategy.
"What we have here is a health issue, not a criminal issue," said the Rev. John L. Wright, pastor of First Baptist Church of Guilford and a city resident. "I will not support any zero tolerance."
In the Democratic primary, Wright backed City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, who also supported the zero-tolerance plan that would require city officers to address all crimes, including nuisance offenses, in an effort to catch repeat offenders before they commit more serious crimes.
But Wright pointed to the Oct. 7 shooting of an African-American car-theft suspect by a white police officer as an example that zero-tolerance policing will encourage officers to conduct racial profiling, meet a quota system for arrests and increase the number of African-Americans arrested in the city.
"The common denominator is 'lock up Negroes,' " Wright said.
The zero-tolerance strategy has been credited with reducing violent crime and the number of killings in cities such as New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Newark, N.J. O'Malley, a former state prosecutor and defense attorney, has pledged to institute the program here along with court reforms to help cut crime. Baltimore ranks as the fourth-deadliest city in the nation.
O'Malley has accused political opponents of capitalizing on the recent shooting of East Baltimore resident Larry J. Hubbard to create fear over zero tolerance. O'Malley notes that between the support he and fellow zero-tolerance proponent Bell received in the Democratic primary, more than 70 percent of those who voted signaled that they want a change in how the city fights crime.
"Our challenge in the years ahead is to save 200 to 300 lives, the majority of whom are young, African-American males, by changing the way we police," O'Malley said. "And a critical component of that will be training and disciplining our own police department."
Tufaro opposes the zero-tolerance strategy, supporting the "community policing" program being used by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who will step down in December. The Roland Park developer, who is making his first bid for political office, also says that neighborhoods should determine which nuisance crimes they want enforced.
Tufaro proposes reducing the city's murder rate by enforcing mandatory prison sentences for gun offenses and initiating better cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies similar to Project Exile in Richmond, Va., which reduced its murder rate by 50 percent during the last three years.
Yesterday, Tufaro pointed to the massive Montgomery Ward building as a prime location to combine the job training with drug rehabilitation that TEAM has requested. Under the TEAM proposal, called "Home of Life," as many as 3,000 people could be placed in a three-year program that would provide drug rehabilitation and job training in skills such as computers, auto mechanics, masonry, carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, roofing and refrigeration.
Tufaro criticized the city's drug treatment program as lacking the critical job component.
"They come out of the program just like they come out of our schools -- untrained to go back into the work force," Tufaro said.
O'Malley, a Northeast Baltimore city councilman, has called for using more of the drug treatment money for mandating treatment of criminals. He said he also wants to ensure that treatment centers remain open later to assist parolees struggling with jobs and families.
TEAM President John Gasque said he is also supporting Tufaro. But Gasque added that his organization will continue to fight for the rehabilitation facility, whoever wins the Nov. 2 general election.
"We will stay on this agenda until this problem is solved," Gasque said.
Pub Date: 10/23/99