Dixon takes negative approach to Mitchell on her weakest issue: crime

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon, who appears to be leading all other candidates in the Sept. 11 mayoral primary, is airing a new ad that focuses on the city's crime. It's an issue that her leading opponent, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., has been harping on for weeks. The 30-second commercial is Dixon's fifth and the 10th overall in the race.

What the ad says: Slow piano music plays as a male narrator says, "We're all worried about crime in Baltimore." A shot of Mitchell appears with the words "playing politics" imposed in one corner. Narrator: "And while other candidates have chosen to play politics with public safety, Mayor Sheila Dixon is doing the real work to keep us safe."

The music goes upbeat and viewers see Dixon talking with a dispatcher as a headline in The Sun appears, "Dixon, police meet over crime plan." Another headline, regarding a police seizure of firearms, is shown as the narrator says, "A gun task force that's getting illegal weapons off our streets, attacking the root causes of crime like gangs and drugs." The narrator says Dixon is a leader who is "already putting more police on the street."

Another Sun headline appears, "Dixon calls for more police: Mayor offers plan to spur recruitment." A final headline, "Dixon seen as setting new course," is seen as the narrator concludes: "Sheila Dixon, a mayor demanding more and delivering results."

The facts: Mitchell oversimplifies the reality of how the city budget works when he attacks Dixon for this year's budget, but Dixon is equally guilty of oversimplifying Mitchell's vote against this year's budget and his vote against the budget in 2001. If that's "playing politics," then there's enough blame to go around.

The truth is, both are running for office and so both are talking about the approach they believe should be taken to deal with crime. And while Dixon might be working hard on crime, the numbers are not encouraging. Homicides were up 17 percent at the end of August compared with last year; nonfatal shootings were up 18 percent. Other crimes are down.

The headlines are all accurate. The "Dixon calls for more police" headline appeared July 13 over an article dealing with Dixon's plan to increase recruitment.

But to suggest, as the ad does, that Dixon is already putting more police on the street is a stretch. In reality, there are fewer police than there were two years ago. Dixon's campaign points to a larger-than-usual recruit class as well as the 65 officers who are now walking a beat every day.

Analysis: It is strange that a candidate who is up so far in the polls is even mentioning an opponent in a negative light. But crime is seemingly the only issue where Dixon might prove vulnerable, so she is working to head off Mitchell's attacks.

The rest of the ad continues the above-the-fray, incumbency-driven strategy Dixon has employed so far in her campaign.

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