Crime in Maryland has fallen to its lowest levels since at least 1975, says Gov. Martin O’Malley, who credited his administration’s close monitoring of violent offenders on probation and other initiatives for strides recorded in an election year, reports the Baltimore Sun. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, O’Malley’s likely challenger in November, countered that Maryland remains one of the most dangerous states. Credit for crime reduction, Ehrlich said, should go to police officers, not politicians.
The exchange illustrated that public safety could become a prominent issue in this year’s gubernatorial campaign, even as voters seem primarily focused on the economy. In 2006, Ehrlich, a Republican incumbent, repeatedly attacked Democrat O’Malley for high crime in Baltimore, accusing the then-mayor of not doing enough to make the city safer. Rodney Bartlett, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, said “everyone should be proud of the crime decreases.” He said he wished O’Malley would give officers more public praise for the work they do. “Initiatives are great. Initiatives give us the tools,” Bartlett said. “But the work starts at home. The work is done on the backs of police officers.” Baltimore, which leads the state – and sometimes the nation – in violent crime, saw 238 murders in 2009, four more than in 2008. Overall, total crime in the city dropped 4.6 percent during that period.