Schmoke vows to lower city's homicide rate

January 01, 1991|By Roger Twigg

Just 11 hours after the year's 305th person was killed in Baltimore, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke visited Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods yesterday to figure out how to restrain the escalating violence.

"We are going to lower the number of murders next year," Mr. Schmoke said after the meeting with top-level police officials.

"I know I am not going to condone it, and neither is the [police] commissioner."

The mayor started with a slap at the judicial system.

"The punishment has to fit the crime. Traditional punishment doesn't seem to be effective. A life sentence should mean life," the mayor said.

For example, the state should treat rapists with a controversial drug that would leave them impotent, the mayor suggested.

In Baltimore, the number of murders in 1990 totaled 43 more than the previous year -- the highest level since 1972, when a record 330 persons were killed, according to the police.

The latest happened just before 3 a.m. yesterday when a 19-year-old man, wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot as he sat in a late model Nissan parked in a lot in the 2000 block of North Charles Street, police said.

They said Lamont Clark of the 100 block of Carlton Street was shot by a passenger in a car that had pulled alongside the Nissan. Mr. Clark died when one of the bullets missed the vest and struck him in the side.

Police said they had no motive or suspects.

After hearing about that killing and five others over the weekend, Mayor Schmoke decided yesterday it was time to talk with the city's police commissioner and his staff about how they have been handling the situation.

"We just can't repeat 1990," Mayor Schmoke said. "People are concerned. We have to bring the people on our side. We have to get the public working for us."

Among the suggestions offered by the mayor and police commissioner were proposals that:

* Additional federal task forces should be established through the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to continue pursuing top-level drug traffickers and confiscate high-powered weapons.

* The police should work with federal agents to have federal charges placed against criminal kingpins so they will face mandatory prison sentences in federal institutions. Such a strategy also would prevent further overburdening of the crowded state prison system.

* The judicial system should handle offenders with compassion and definitive sentences.

* The state legislature should earmark additional money, in part, to help fill 104 Police Department vacancies, mostly for street patrols.

Mayor Schmoke said he and Commissioner Woods intend to go to neighborhood meetings in the next few months to discuss the killings and convince people to get involved in crime watch programs that provide information and other assistance to the police.

"It's a community problem," the mayor said. "The police can do their part, but we both realize that we need a real partnership with the community."

Additionally, the mayor said something has to be done about the proliferation of guns on the street.

Referring to the slaying of a 25-year-old man Friday in Charles Village, Commissioner Woods said that gun "could have been taken off the street before the crime occurred" had the public placed more emphasis on removing such weapons.

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