xml:space="preserve">

I want to congratulate two former leaders of Baltimore's criminal justice system, Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefield III (2007-2012) and State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein (2010-2014), for outlining a responsible approach to resolving our crime and justice problems ("Dear Commissioner Davis," July 19). The strategies to reduce crime set forth are "not complicated or novel." To be successful, planning and implementation must include all the stakeholders.

It is absolutely essential to have all key decision-makers at the table in order to develop a comprehensive plan to control and prevent crime. Law enforcement officials at the city, state and federal level must be joined with the leadership of the courts, corrections and public safety, public defenders, prosecutors and crime prevention specialists in the public and private sector to develop a plan of action that has widespread public support. Moreover, it is critical that the Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council have the necessary leadership experience to facilitate this process. Recent reports have indicated a lack of staff to follow through with various anti-crime initiatives.

Advertisement

In the past, the city has experienced trauma and tragedies of rising crime and victimization but with the strong support and visibility of the mayor and other leadership in Baltimore, the community came together to make a difference. Sustaining progress requires constant vigilance and collaboration. Working in an adversarial system, it was not easy to bring together these independent and strong-willed personnel, but adopting a responsible plan was a key element in the process. Research and experience shows that decisions to allocate resources to one part of the system, such as increasing police officers on the streets, has a significant impact on the number of arrests by requiring more public defenders and prosecutors, demanding additional court time and requiring alternatives to incarceration and sentencing options.

The juvenile justice system would require additional support at the intake stage and other options for the decision-making process. Involvement of the business community, leadership from private non-profits and the advocacy community is important to bring fresh ideas to the table. From the outset, it is also critical to involve the academic community to establish data collection and analysis protocols for evaluating what works and provide evidenced-based recommendations for further action. Most important, community-involvement and buy-in to an action plan, including local and state elected officials and citizens in the areas most affected by crime and victimization, becomes essential.

A comprehensive crime control and prevention plan would also include key leaders from education, mental health and substance abuse, health care, social services, mentoring programs and employment and job training. Foundations should also be able to contribute their expertise and resources to enable the plan to be successful. The human rights issues such as poverty, an inadequate educational system and unemployment that lead to crime call for a buy-in by all the players with a will to effect major change in our society. Sustaining progress requires consistent support and funding with visionary leadership at all levels.

Richard W. Friedman, Baltimore

The writer served as director of the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice (1974-1979) and executive director of the Governor's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (1979-1985).

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement