Dave Cook doesn't have go to the movies to see crime and violence. He sees that almost every day while working in West Baltimore.
Cook, 27, a sign truck foreman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, says on any given day it's not unusual for him to witness drug transactions, a robbery or two or even an assault with a deadly weapon.
"I've seen things you wouldn't believe," Cook said. "Something's got to be done. The whole west side of Baltimore is going down the tubes."
Cook was one of 51 city employees who attended a one-hour anti-crime workshop Wednesday at the Department of Transportation to learn what they can do to improve public safety.
Mayor Kurt Schmoke said the program was designed to teach and encourage those city employees who work in Baltimore neighborhoods how to recognize and report crimes and other public safety violations to appropriate agencies.
The employees learned how to provide a description of a suspect or a vehicle and, if necessary, describe dangerous or suspicious situations they may witness.
But the workers were encouraged only to report problems to authorities and not to endanger their own lives by taking physical action.
Workers in radio-equipped vehicles will place their calls through the agencies' dispatch systems, which notify the fire or police departments.
All told, the city hopes to educate about 1,500 employees from the Departments of Health, Transportation, Housing and Community Development, Recreation and Parks and Public Works. The coalition is called the Inter Agency Public Safety Task Force.
Glenard S. Middleton Sr., executive director of the 14,000-member Maryland American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said workers can be an integral part of providing public safety.
"It's important that we get involved," Middleton said. "As citizens of Baltimore, we need to say that we're concerned about the quality of life here. We can make a difference."
"We don't want Baltimore to go down like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit," he added. "Residents there have moved out to the suburbs from the inner cities to escape crime."
However, Middleton said some workers feel uneasy about taking on added duties, which can sometimes be dangerous, when they report crimes in the course of their work.
The mayor's new program for city workers is an extension of the Neighborhood Block Watch Program and Citizens on Patrol Program, which police said have been very helpful.
Warren J. Butler, 36, a construction inspector for public works, said many people just turn their heads when they see criminal acts in their neighborhoods. "If everybody joined in and helped out, we wouldn't have as much crime," Butler said.
Other workers said police officers in vehicles are not as effective as foot patrolmen. They said the city should hire more officers to walk the streets to deter some crimes that go unnoticed, instead of investing money in more cars and gasoline.