Briefing on crime sought

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake introduced resolutions yesterday asking the city's police commissioner to brief the council on the effect of reduced police overtime on Baltimore's homicide rate, a plan to redraw police district lines and the effectiveness of the city's blue-light crime cameras.

At a City Council lunch, Rawlings-Blake said current police district lines are outdated and could be responsible for a "structural deficit" in police overtime spending. Mayor Sheila Dixon recently said redrawing the lines is a "top priority."

"We have to see if we are stretching our resources so thin that we are creating the overtime problem," Rawlings-Blake said. "We have to draw the lines in a way that creates the best use of our resources."

Dixon said last week that she would like the nine districts to be reconfigured to better reflect shifts in the city's population and levels of violence.

Rawlings-Blake also wants an update on plans to phase out some of the city's blue-light cameras. "We need to ... make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck," she said.

In one resolution, Rawlings-Blake notes that there has been a 63 percent increase in killings this year over last year.

Millions of dollars have been sliced from the department's budget to help close a revenue shortfall, including cuts to police overtime.

"It is difficult to ascertain if there is a correlation between overtime spending and the crime rate," Rawlings-Blake's resolution says. "An official briefing will serve to update the Council on the effects of budgetary cutbacks."

Although homicides are up, nonfatal shootings are down by roughly 38 percent this year, according to police data. Total crime is down 20 percent.

City police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III "welcomes the opportunity to meet with the City Council to discuss ways that we can further improve the city's crime fight."

He defended Bealefeld's record on crime. "If you look at a long-term scale, the crime plan is working, and the numbers are down," Guglielmi said.

Bealefeld is to brief the council this week on the department's new policy to restrict the release of names of officers who shoot civilians.

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