Summit on crime is urged Schmoke's letter to Clinton offers other suggestions BALTIMORE CITY

July 02, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer Staff writer Roger Twigg contributed to this article.

With Baltimore on a pace to break its murder record for the second year in a row, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke urged President Clinton yesterday to convene a national summit on violent crime.

In a two-page letter to the president, Mr. Schmoke said that the summit participants should be charged with rethinking national policies on handguns, narcotics and corrections.

He also urged the president to:

* Convert an unspecified number of the military bases scheduled for closing for use as prisons for violent offenders, to be run by soldiers or former soldiers.

* Target a revised economic stimulus package on youth employment, allowing localities to use funds for year-round as well as summer employment as a way to fight the high school drop-out rate.

* Provide cities with the 100,000 police officers he promised during his campaign.

Mr. Schmoke said that he was prompted to write the president after "looking at the homicide numbers" in Baltimore and elsewhere and talking with other mayors about the problem of violent crime.

"It's clear we can no longer treat this problem as an isolated problem; this is a national problem crying out for a national strategy on violence," Mr. Schmoke said.

"I feel strongly that the president needs to take the lead in developing strategies for combating this problem," he added.

As of yesterday, 172 people had been murdered in Baltimore this year. That compares with 153 at this time last year, when the city set a record with 335 homicides.

Also yesterday, Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods blamed hTC the proliferation of drugs for the increase in slayings, saying, "It's not a Baltimore problem. It's one that is occurring across the nation."

Mr. Woods noted that other categories of violent crime had decreased 6 percent in the first quarter of the year because of stepped-up police activity and community support. But he said most homicides were difficult to prevent because they occurred between acquaintances and out of the presence of police.

The commissioner also responded to two City Council members who publicly criticized him Wednesday for failing to reduce the homicide rate.

"We are doing everything we possibly can. I wish there was a magic potion to enhance the things we are now doing. We are all frustrated, but we are not going to overcome the situation by pointing fingers at one another," he said.

In response to the violence, the city has begun to implement a program of community policing and will hire an additional 60 officers in the 1994 fiscal year that began yesterday.

In his letter, Mr. Schmoke noted that he had raised concerns about the increasing urban violence in a May conference call with Mr. Clinton during which the president proposed the creation of "empowerment zones" to spur economic development in impoverished urban areas.

"There is a desperate need for short term and long term actions to reverse the escalation in violence that has gripped cities from one end of this country to another," the mayor wrote.

"For certain groups of young men in the United States, the chances of getting killed on the streets of their cities are far greater than were their chances of being killed during Operation Desert Storm. We face a national emergency that is a greater threat to the future of this country than is the adventurism of foreign governments such as the one in Iraq. Violence in America is the enemy within and we must defeat that enemy now," the

letter said.

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