Foot soldiers in the war on crime

January 21, 1993

Throughout the metropolitan region, crime has law-abiding citizens by the throat. We're frightened and fed up, and we want something done to stop the flood of drugs and violence that makes us feel threatened, even in our own homes and cars.

In Anne Arundel County, for instance, a Glen Burnie secretary and an Upper Marlboro grandmother set out to collect 2,600 signatures supporting the death penalty and ended up with 26,000. There's no mistaking the message those people are sending.

Ginni Wolf of Glen Burnie, widow of slain State Police Cpl. Theodore Wolf, spoke for many when she recently asked, "Does the death penalty have to be a deterrent to have it? Can't it just be a matter of saying, 'Hey, we've had enough'?"

This paper has not supported capital punishment. But even if we did -- even if we justified the death penalty as an outlet for rage and a sign that society will not tolerate horrible crimes -- where do we turn for a solution to crime itself?

You may have missed the story about Deneice F. Fisher and Charles G. James, two of a handful of Annapolis activists who have made themselves foot soldiers in the war against the social problems that cause crime.

In an effort coordinated by the Annapolis Community Partnership, an umbrella group of city and county agencies, businesses and organizations, they have been going door to door, handing out anti-drug literature and exhorting people to save their own neighborhoods. They walked the city's eight wards this month, including drug-ridden pockets such as College Creek Terrace.

The message of these volunteers has not attracted the kind of headlines that the death penalty petition has, yet they are closer to an effective answer for reducing the number of criminals who drag women out of their cars or shoot police officers.

They know that what the experts have told us for years is true: that most crime grows out of social ills, that those who grow up surrounded by crime, poverty and drugs often become enslaved by them. They know wars on drug abuse and violence are futile without a war on the social problems that spawn them.

And they know that -- with or without the death penalty -- the plague that is destroying such neighborhoods as College Creek Terrace will keep spreading unless more of us get down in the trenches to fight it.

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