Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke asked about 250 people at the War Memorial last night for their opinions on how to battle city crime, and he received advice ranging from sanitation removal to bringing back prayer in the schools.
While some spoke of traditional crime-fighting methods such as increases in patrols and tougher criminal penalties, many had more unusual strategies in mind.
"It would be a step in the right direction if everyone went home tonight and threw away their television," said Rusty White, president of the Northwest Citizens Patrol group. "It's an extremely potent influence" that encourages juvenile violence, he said.
Another citizen who spoke at the public meeting, Jane Shipley of 25thStreet, encouraged the mayor to fight crime by channeling more city funds into the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
"The library can be part of the solution. Books can save lives and books can change lives," said Ms. Shipley, who last week at another meeting spoke passionately in favor of saving Baltimore's libraries. "More lives are saved in libraries than on basketball courts," she said.
Another woman who talked of drug abuse among children asked the mayor to bring back prayer in schools, which earned her a round of applause from the audience.
"That's the Supreme Court's business, you're going to have to talk to Clarence Thomas about that," said Mr. Schmoke, who moderated the informal discussion at the building opposite City Hall.
Others spoke of truancy and how to make children stay in school, and of more efficient trash pickups in their run-down neighborhoods.
Mr. Schmoke told the crowd that he was hoping that the hiring of 50 more police officers would help the newly launched community policing program. But even that has a long way to go, he said.
"One of the officers who was out making his rounds around the Madison Avenue neighborhood said that he was knocking on doors to meet people, and a senior citizen came to the door with a gun," Mr. Schmoke said. "Now that lets you know we've got people out there living in fear."
Nine-year-old Charles Bullock, who lives on Carey Street, asked Mr. Schmoke, "How can we take the drug dealers off the corner?"
The mayor referred the boy to a patrol commander in charge of his neighborhood.
"He said he'd send somebody by," Charles reported after talking with the officer.