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State to help in crime tracking

The Baltimore Sun

OCEAN CITY -- Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he will help municipal and county governments to implement the computerized crime tracking system he used in Baltimore and will provide grant money to help law enforcement officials to fight gangs and share intelligence.

Addressing mayors, town council members and other local officials at the Maryland Municipal League's annual conference, O'Malley said he envisions the state taking a greater role in coordinating law enforcement activities against increasingly organized and broad-reaching criminal elements.

"We have to become much more integrated," O'Malley said. "We are one state, and when it comes to protecting lives and property we need to start acting like one state. A threat against one of us is a threat against all of us."

The computerized crime tracking system, known as Comstat, was pioneered in New York and implemented in Baltimore shortly after O'Malley became mayor in 1999. The approach is credited with making New York the safest big city in the United States, but despite drops in violent crime under the O'Malley administration, Baltimore remains one of the country's deadliest cities.

The technique involves computer mapping of criminal activity so that police commanders can better allocate resources to trouble areas.

"It really revolutionized New York and gave it a brighter tomorrow," O'Malley said. "Our office will have resources available for any law enforcement agency in our state that wants to move in this direction."

The governor said yesterday that his administration will distribute $1.5 million in federal grant money to combat violent crime and $750,000 to improve the sharing of information on gangs among local and state law enforcement agencies.

Violent street gangs have become increasingly prevalent in Maryland, enough so that state's attorneys lobbied successfully during the General Assembly session for new powers to prosecute criminal organizations.

"We have got to get in front of this gang issue," O'Malley said. "There is not a single part of our state this will not eventually touch if we don't get in front of it."

O'Malley also said he would provide an additional $3.3 million for violence-reduction initiatives through the state's Collaborative Supervision and Focused Enforcement (CSAFE) program. He said he has moved to provide parole and probation officers with remote access to criminal records databases, as well as other tools at CSAFE sites to help them better track those on parole and probation.

Said O'Malley: "The honor system might work well at the Naval Academy, but it might not work with a lot of the people on parole and probation."


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