Governor asks summit on rising tide of violence Schaefer also seeks new gun legislation

January 04, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland needs a homicide summit, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday.

The governor said he is alarmed by year-end reports for 1991 showing the murder rate moving up or holding steady at high levels all over the state -- 304 in Baltimore compared with 305 in 1990; 150 last year in Prince George's County compared with 127 in 1990.

"We have to concentrate on this, see what's happening," he said. "Maybe the state police should be around some of our buildings." He offered no other details -- but he said something must be done "so the people will feel the streets are somewhat safe."

Mr. Schaefer, who disclosed his plan during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at the State House, said he believed that Bishop L. Robinson, the state's secretary of public safety, could organize a productive, high-level session that involved "the grass roots."

Local opposition, he said, would be the only obstacle: In some situations local government officials have resented intrusions by state officials.

But immediate and enthusiastic acceptance greeted the governor's proposals in Prince George's County, one of the counties most directly affected by the rising tide of violence.

"We have to be very aggressive," said Parris N. Glendening, the county executive. "There are some bad people out there who are killing people. They have to be taken off our streets and out of our communities." Summits are good, he said, because they can get entire communities involved.

Mr. Glendening, who is preparing to issue his own blueprint for dealing with murder and violence on Prince George's County streets, said sociologists are finding an increase in murders up in economically difficult times.

Two of the last murders of 1991 were a man shooting a woman in New Carrollton and a woman shooting a man in Beltsville, he said.

Even more alarming is the toll murder takes on young black males, he said. In Washington and suburban Washington, 85 of 100 murdersinvolve a young black male killing another young black male.

"I would welcome a summit on violence and I welcome any additional resources or assistance that could be given from the state," he said. "Anyone who has reservations based on local prerogatives would be making a terrible mistake. Violence and homicides do not know jurisdictional boundaries." More than 3,000 people were murdered during the last five years in Washington and its Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs, he said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke could not be reached for comment.

In a related matter, Governor Schaefer said he will ask the General Assembly during the 1992 session that convenes next week to pass his legislation restricting access to assault rifles.

The Schaefer administration will also file second gun bill, which seeks to prevent accidental shootings involving children, again this year.

Mr. Schaefer said his struggle to balance state spending and income continues -- but he said he is "dissatisfied" with the progress of negotiations between his own staff and the Assembly's fiscal leaders.

If no consensus is presented to him by Tuesday, he said, he will forge ahead with his own plan. Continuing his more conciliatory approach to the Assembly, however, he said, "I don't blame the legislature. I blame my own people. I don't think they kept the pressure on."

The governor declined to assess the chances of a tax increase during the session that begins next Wednesday.

He said he is still coping with the view that his own staff or the governor's mansion holds the key to a balanced budget. People write to him suggesting, "If we can just de-bloat the governor's budget, lay off another 10 people, the problem will be solved." The problem is far too big for that, Mr. Schaefer said.

Asked if Christmas-driven tax revenues would show any improvement, he said, the results would probably be spotty, good in some places, poor in others. Overall, he said, he is optimistic that the revenue projections will hold.

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