Dixon focuses on crime issue

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon's latest television advertisement focuses entirely on crime -- an issue that City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., one of Dixon's leading opponents, has tried to claim as his own. The 30-second spot is Dixon's second, and it is the fifth television commercial of this year's campaign.

What the ad says: As Dixon is seen walking through city neighborhoods, a male narrator says: "By bringing people together, Sheila Dixon has a crime plan to make our city safer." The camera cuts to a shot of Dixon, who says: "Together we can get the guns and violent criminals off our streets and chart a new course." The narrator says Dixon is "a mayor retaining our best police officers, recruiting hundreds of new ones," and that she has "a plan to keep us safe." Viewers see a police officer making an arrest, Dixon talking with a police officer and then Dixon sitting before a bank of computer screens.

The facts: Dixon has been hard to pin down on her crime strategy since taking office in January. She has promoted a number of programs -- some of which are federally funded -- though most of the programs are limited in scope. The administration also has reversed itself several times, most notably when it asked police detectives to walk foot patrols but then decided, under mounting pressure, to take many of them off that detail. Dixon fired the city's police commissioner last month.

The mayor has talked about "striking a balance" between community policing and the zero-tolerance approach employed by her predecessor, Gov. Martin O'Malley, but the administration has struggled to articulate what, specifically, it intends to do to reduce the spiking number of homicides in the city. Finally, the ad leaves the impression that Dixon has recruited hundreds of new officers and retained "the best." In fact, the city has recruited 461 officers in the past two years but has lost 532 during the period -- a net loss of 71.

Analysis: Dixon is striking back on what is likely her most vulnerable issue going into the Sept. 11 Democratic primary election: the rising number of homicides, which threatens to exceed 300 for the first time since 1999. The spot carries the general theme of her campaign -- emphasizing her incumbency -- into the issue of crime.

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