City misses goal of reducing homicides to 175 this year


Mayor Martin O'Malley Baltimore crashed through its goal of reducing this year's homicide toll to 175 -- recording three killings Tuesday night, including one of a juvenile.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who set the goal when he was running for office in 1999, said that he aims to substantially reduce homicides, even after failing to reach this year's target.

"We set very high expectations for the people of our city," O'Malley said yesterday. "We wanted it to be down to 175 by the end of this year. That's not going to happen. ... We would have hoped to stay within that or even less than that. It just reiterates the fact that there's just much more work that we need to do. We've got our work cut out, and there's no break to be taken in this process."

The city had gone several days without any homicides, but three people were gunned down Tuesday night in separate incidents. One man was shot in the face; another was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun; and a 15-year-old was killed in a double shooting that left a 13-year-old wounded.

The killings come as the city has continued to post gains in reducing violent crime and homicides during the past few years. In the 1990s, the city recorded more than 300 homicides each year.

But in 2000, the number of homicides fell to 261. Last year, Baltimore recorded 256. The city is on pace to achieve similar numbers this year.

Tuesday night's string of killings began about 10:30 p.m., when Reginald Tyler, 27, who was wanted on charges of attempted murder, was fatally shot in the face in the 300 block of E. Lafayette Ave., police said.

An hour later, Kenneth Levern Hooper, 44, of the 4500 block of Parkside Drive was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun in the 2300 block of Jefferson St., police said.

Just before midnight, 15-year-old Tavon Bibbens was fatally shot and Brandon Bailey, 13, was wounded in the 2500 block of Marbourne Ave., police said. The extent of Bailey's injuries could not be determined yesterday.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris declined to comment yesterday about the mayor's goal, but many inside and outside the department said they were not surprised that the target was not met.

"It was overly optimistic," said Bert F. Shirey, a former deputy police commissioner. "Was it realistic for Baltimore City? Not in one or two years."

However, Shirey and others applauded O'Malley for setting such a high goal, even if it seemed unreachable.

"At least he stepped to the plate," said Ralph B. Taylor, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University in Philadelphia and author of Breaking Away from Broken Windows, a book about crime-fighting strategies in Baltimore. "That takes guts."

The city faces severe challenges in its effort to substantially reduce homicides. It is grappling with a violent culture fueled by guns and drugs. Nearly 60,000 city residents are addicted to narcotics, although Baltimore has recorded the nation's largest two-year drop in emergency room visits tied to drug use.

The city also has been battling problems associated with youth violence. This year, 26 juveniles have been slain, nine more than in 2001 through the same period.

O'Malley has said reducing youth violence is a top priority.

City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. said he plans to introduce an ordinance or resolution that would rework the city's decades-old juvenile curfew laws, which were last rewritten in 1995 but are seldom enforced.

Harris said he wants the city to enforce the law, but change it so that youths are not taken to police stations but to recreation centers or libraries so they can engage in wholesome activities until their parents pick them up.

Phoenix has been using a similar juvenile program since 1993, with children who are picked up at night receiving supervision from city parks department employees in parks or recreation centers until they are turned over to their parents, according to a 40-page report on crime-fighting strategies that Harris and others released this week.

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