Baltimore Mayor Optimistic Despite Homicide Rise


In the housing projects and row houses where Baltimore’s narcotics dealers dispense crack and heroin, warring factions are killing rivals at a relentless clip, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bodies have mounted at a rate of almost one a day over the last month–36 since Jan. 1. Last week, Mayor Martin O’Malley asserted that, “We have led America’s big cities in reducing violence.”

Still, five police commissioners have come and gone since O’Malley was elected mayor five years ago. “It gives the appearance of chaos at the top,” said Bert Shirey, a retired police veteran who served briefly as the first of O’Malley’s commissioners. While New York, Los Angeles, and other big cities have seen homicide totals drop over the last two years, Baltimore’s tally has crept upward, from 271 killings in 2003 and 253 in 2002. O’Malley began judging police performance by crime statistics churned out by the ComStat computerized program. O’Malley said that the turmoil in the commissioner’s office had had “minimal impact” on crime-reduction efforts. “Police officers crave stability,” he said, “but they work for their [immediate] commanders.”


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