Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s administration has commissioned a criminologist to conduct an expedited audit of Maryland crime statistics, just as Ehrlich gears up for a reelection campaign that could put a spotlight on violence in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, the Washington Post reports. Police in the five largest Maryland jurisdictions were notified last month that they would be asked to contribute data for a study that would be completed by Aug. 14, about three months before Election Day. Public safety officials in several places questioned whether the real goals of the project are political, given the expectation that if Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley is the Democratic Party nominee, Ehrlich will attempt to blame him for Baltimore’s persistent crime woes.
Charles Wellford, the University of Maryland professor who will conduct the study, said that officials in the governor’s crime control office approached him with the idea, recommended the timetable, and said they will pay him $340,000. That branch of the governor’s office was the target of a federal investigation during the 2002 election season in which officials there were accused of using grant money to bolster Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ties to constituent groups. An indictment of the agency’s director was dismissed. Wellford denied a political motive, remarking, “It’s not unusual for us to get called in to try to be an objective voice on what crime data are saying.”