Residents vent rage on crime NAACP summit draws strong views

July 30, 1992|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Residents' anger about the city's inability to curtail the spiraling rate of violent crime spewed out at last night's NAACP crime summit.

But the raucous meeting in East Baltimore produced no consensus and often bordered on chaos, with audience members shouting down some speakers and heckling others, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

There was also no real discussion of martial law, the imposition of which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had suggested to galvanize community outrage about the carnage that dominates the tenor of life in many poor neighborhoods.

"Will martial law solve this problem?" NAACP President Arthur Murphy asked the crowd at Mount Sinai Baptist Church on East Preston Street. "I think not. But we must come away from this meeting with things we can do."

The NAACP accused Mr. Schmoke of not treating violence like a crisis. That charge angered the mayor, who said he resented any suggestion that he downplays the devastation caused by violent crime.

"I take specific umbrage at that comment," Mr. Schmoke shouted after NAACP Executive Director George N. Buntin Jr. said the mayor seemed to "shrug his shoulders" in remarks made after 3-year-old Andre Dorsey was killed by a stray bullet last month.

Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods ticked off a list of police initiatives, including a program to rid streets of illegal guns and another to establish a violent crimes task force.

Many speakers offered their ideas about the source of the violence and drug problems.

Some blamed the Central Intelligence Agency for cutting deals with corrupt leaders of drug-producing countries. Others said adults -- especially black men -- must establish a stronger presence in their neighborhoods by becoming positive role models for youngsters and providing alternatives to criminal behavior. They said children deal in drugs and violence because they know no other profitable enterprise.

Other suggestions ranged from building fences in Druid Hill and Leakin parks to cage violent offenders who cannot fit into overcrowded prisons to establishing a community "tribunal" to weed out the drug financiers and money launderers in the city. The Nation of Islam offered its spiritual program of self-help.

Many of the speakers' ideas were met with rude audience remarks.

As the mayor spoke, several hecklers shouted at him -- one questioning the need for his police bodyguards and the police cruiser stationed outside his home.

"My focus was on the people who sat in the pews and came here looking for solutions, not on the loud talkers," Mr. Schmoke said later. "What we have to have in this city is a block-by-block effort . . . much like a political campaign, to get people to reclaim the streets."

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