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Crime takes center stage

The Baltimore Sun

The television commercials in the mayor's race are now coming fast and furious. City Councilman and mayoral candidate Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. has begun airing a new ad that once again deals with crime -- specifically the homicide totals.

The 30-second spot is Mitchell's third and comes a day after Mayor Sheila Dixon launched her first spot.

What the ad says: In a theatrical opening segment, the camera shows a young girl sitting at a kitchen table as her mother cleans a pot in the sink. "Keisha, go get your brother for dinner, baby," the mother says. Seconds after Keisha walks off-camera, a gunshot is heard and the mother looks up in alarm. "There is a murder crisis in Baltimore and it's spreading to neighborhoods across our city," Mitchell says. The rest of the spot uses video from his last commercial as Mitchell runs through his anti-crime plan -- promising to hire 400 more police officers and step up the effort to serve outstanding warrants. "I'll never let up in the fight to protect our city," Mitchell concludes.

The facts: Both campaigns have been airing ads with very few facts. It is true that homicides are up. The number of killings in the city continues to be on pace to exceed 300 homicides by year's end for the first time since 1999. Whether the homicides are "spreading" is another matter. To justify that language, the campaign said the number of homicides in the Northeastern District has doubled. Though the vast majority of the city's homicides continue to afflict East and West Baltimore, police statistics show that through the first six months of the year, homicides in the Northeastern district went from eight in 2006 to 19 in 2007. Mitchell has vowed to hire 400 new police officers, although he has not offered a solid plan to pay for that promise.

Analysis: For one thing, the Mitchell camp is working to shift focus away from last week's campaign finance brouhaha, so this ad is a chance for him to strike out again on the central issue of his campaign. The ad is not negative, but it does play on the fears many city residents have about crime and homicides.

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