Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will retain and overhaul a controversial anticrime program of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, his election opponent. The Baltimore Sun says that Ehrlich will maintain a scaled-back version of Townsend’s HotSpot Communities Initiative – which is being renamed Collaborative Supervision and Focused Enforcement. The Sun reports that like Townsend, Ehrlich will be able to build good will as he distributes crime-fighting grants in troubled neighborhoods.
The number of HotSpot areas will drop from 62 to 47, said Alan C. Woods III, head of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, and will include just three in Baltimore instead of the previous 12. State aid to such areas will drop to $3 million per year from $8 million. “HotSpots had some success,” Ehrlich said. “We have a program we think draws on the lessons of HotSpots.”
Montgomery County, Md., Executive Douglas M. Duncan praised Ehrlich. “I love the HotSpot stuff,” he said. “We urged him to keep the HotSpots going.” Created by Townsend, the HotSpot initiative identified high-crime neighborhoods, and brought together community leaders, police, parole and probation officers and social workers for a coordinated response to crime.
Some studies showed that the strategy was effective in reducing crime, but the program and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which ran it, became magnets for criticism. The office was the subject of a federal investigation into whether grants were handed out for political purposes, allegations that distracted the Townsend campaign.
Edward T. Norris, Ehrlich’s state police superintendent, said while serving as Baltimore police commissioner that HotSpots should be considered among the “failed policies of the past.”