Pica forgoes using troops to fight crime

September 01, 1992|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Bowing to the objections of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, the chairman of the city's state Senate delegation yesterday backed off plans to propose legislation to create a state commission with power to deploy state troopers and National Guardsmen in high-crime areas.

Instead, Sen. John A. Pica Jr. proposed formation of a state commission with the task of bolstering the Baltimore Police Department, promoting community cooperation in high-crime areas and planning workfare and recreation programs with anti-crime themes.

He removed provisions for deploying state police and National Guardsmen after discussions with the mayor and Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods. "They had concerns about the training those people receive," Mr. Pica said.

The commission's activities would be funded by a surcharge on fines collected in criminal cases, under the proposed bill Mr. Pica plans to introduce in the 1993 General Assembly. The Northeast Baltimore Democrat sees the commission as a way to battle violent crime, which has has been increasing sharply in the city this year.

Mr. Pica made his announcement at a news conference in front of a Pen Lucy carry-out, the scene last week of a drive-by shooting that killed two people and wounded six others. He was backed at the press conference by state Sens. Barbara A. Hoffman and Nathan C. Irby, both city Democrats. Baltimore NAACP official George N. Buntin Jr., who in July called for discussion of martial law, was also there to support Mr. Pica.

But some residents, who said they are terrified by the constant gunplay in the Pen Lucy area of Northeast Baltimore, nonetheless called Mr. Pica's idea wrongheaded. More than V VTC dozen people picketed the announcement, carrying signs saying, "Education, not incarceration" and "We want more recreation centers not detention camps."

Terressa Johnson, one of the protesters, said, "They're talking about police. But we need recreation centers, better schools and more social intervention. These are things that are omitted in [Mr. Pica's] plan."

Mr. Buntin, executive director of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, disputed that notion: "Everyone knows the root causes of crime. But I'm for anything we can get out of Annapolis to help the city. The city does not have the resources to deal with this problem of violence. Also, the city administration is not reaching out the way it should. The mayor is worried about control . . . the governor is worried about image . . . meanwhile the city bleeds."

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