BALTIMORE CITY — Mayor lifts police hiring freeze
In an effort to ease increased concerns about crime in Baltimore, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is lifting a Police Department hiring freeze so 50 additional officers can be placed on the streets by May.
Speaking to about 200 employees at the University of Maryland's downtown campus yesterday, Mr. Schmoke called crime the city's No. 1 issue. "We have to take some steps now to let people know we are doing as much as we can to fight crime," Mr. Schmoke said.
The new hires should sharply reduce the number of vacancies on the police force. In January, 86 jobs were vacant in the 2,967-person force. The city stopped filling the vacancies late last fall to save money in the face of state budget cuts.
Last month, a series of kidnappings from parking garages shocked the city. One victim was slain.
Mr. Schmoke has been attempting to calm the jitters of people who work downtown by scheduling a meetings with them. The mayor has set a citywide "town meeting" for Monday night at War Memorial.
MVA called lax:
A review of Motor Vehicle Administration procedures found the agency's internal security lax and chastised the MVA for not spelling out security policies to employees, state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer said yesterday.
"We've got to do a better job of putting into writing the procedures for handling documents," Mr. Lighthizer said.
He declined to release copies of the report, which he ordered last week to assess the MVA's vulnerability to fraud.
The issue arose in the wake of publicity surrounding Dontay Carter, 18, who allegedly obtained a duplicate driver's license in the name of a 37-year-old man he is charged with abducting and killing.
The MVA review was prepared by the Transportation Department's internal audit division. Mr. Lighthizer received it Monday.
Releasing the full document, he said, would be tantamount to advertising ways to defraud the MVA.
Instead, officials distributed a one-page summary with scant details. But a source within the department described the full report as "very, very critical."
Anne Arundel County
A Charles County builder that touts its homes as both custom-built and affordable is branching out into Anne Arundel County.
American Family Homes has entered an arrangement with Century 21 Realty, whose agents will help customers find and purchase land. The St. Charles-based builder would build a home on the site from one of 30 single-family models.
American Family's houses, ranging from two-bedroom, ranch-style to four-bedroom, two-story, all-brick homes with more than 2,000 square feet of space, cost $65,000 to $112,000, excluding land and site work, such as grading and clearing.
Three key staffers of the Baltimore County Economic Development Commission have been summarily fired by the new director, Kenneth C. Nohe.
Anthony J. Haley, deputy director of the commission; Patricia Krug, office manager; and Patrick L. McDonough, a commission staffer who managed County Executive Roger B. Hayden's 1990 campaign, all said they were read a short statement about their "philosophical differences" with the boss, who was accompanied by one of Mr. Hayden's police bodyguards late Monday. Then they were told to leave.
Neither Mr. Nohe nor Mr. Hayden would comment on the firings, saying they are "personnel matters."
But the executive said that, in general, the commission "is doing exactly what we want it to do."
Commission Chairman A. Samuel Cook said he was upset about the firings and considered resigning, but decided to stay at Mr. Hayden's urging. "I think they [Mr. Haley and Mrs. Krug] did an outstanding job," he said, adding that his task now is to unite the commission so it can continue its work.
Four people have been arrested in a series of pipe bombings last week in Carroll County, a fire official said.
David William Smith, 23, of Westminster, was arrested yesterday and charged with possession of a pipe bomb, possession of explosives with intent to terrorize and manufacturing of a pipe bomb, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Bob Thomas. A 14-year-old and two 17-year-olds also were arrested and charged, he said.
Mr. Smith is being held in the Carroll County Detention Center on $10,000 bond. The juveniles have been released to the custody of their parents.
Mr. Thomas said the bombs detonated March 4 and destroyed mail boxes and a cable television junction box, disrupting cable service in the area.
St. Mary's Assumption Eastern Catholic Church in Joppa is organizing educational, cultural and religious programs with the addition of two more priests and a lay leader.
The staff will organize pilgrimages and retreats, establish a church museum and religious shop and develop programs for building shrines.