O'Malley defends crime data


Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday that the city's violent crime statistics are accurate and that an independent audit of the data, similar to one he authorized six years ago, is not warranted, despite calls for such a review by his Democratic opponent for governor.

Critics question whether O'Malley's assertion that Baltimore's violent crime declined nearly 40 percent during his tenure has been inflated because it compares 1999 data, which underwent a comprehensive audit that increased the reported incidents of violence, to 2004 statistics, which were not subjected to the same scrutiny.

The mayor said at a City Hall news conference yesterday that Baltimore does more to internally verify and review its crime reports than most cities and that the process is so thorough as to make unnecessary a one-time annual audit as extensive as the one conducted six years ago.

"I'm not asking for an independent audit ... but I know political opponents always ask for one in an election year," O'Malley said. "We audit internally all the time."

O'Malley's Democratic rival for governor, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, called for such a review this week and went so far yesterday as to say the mayor deliberately manipulated crime statistics.

"It appears the mayor has cooked the books on crime statistics in the city," Duncan said in an interview. "This issue of cooked books strikes at the heart of the mayor's credibility on crime and on other issues beyond that."

In an article Saturday, The Sun detailed questions about the mayor's violent crime reduction claim. Several criminologists say the statistics for 2004 would have to undergo the same review as the 1999 statistics before the mayor can accurately claim a nearly 40 percent reduction.

Before the audit of crime statistics of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's last year in office, the city recorded 15,245 violent crimes in 1999. The audit, conducted by consultants hired by O'Malley in 2000, found reporting mistakes and revised the number of violent crime incidents -- counted as homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults -- to 18,630, a 22 percent boost.

Compared with pre-audited figures, violent crime is down 23.5 percent. Compared with post-audit numbers, the reduction is 37.4 percent.

O'Malley dismissed assertions by Duncan of deliberate statistical manipulation as "sad," "irresponsible" and "unsubstantiated." The mayor said he had hard evidence when, as a city councilman in 1998, he accused Schmoke's police department of undercounting shootings.

The mayor said that any audit he could call for would be instantly labeled as politically biased. He said an audit of the city's crime statistics authorized recently by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is politically motivated.

Ehrlich administration officials deny any political motive for the audit, which is set to be finished in August, the month before the Democratic primary.

At least one Baltimore City Council member, Kenneth N. Harris Sr., said the mayor should call for an independent audit. "To settle this once and for all and to dismiss those who are in doubt or are suspicious, an independent audit would put closure to the matter," Harris said.


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