Cooperative crime-fighting weighed

January 08, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

The three most prominent public leaders in the Baltimore-Washington area met yesterday to develop a cooperative approach to the region's crime problem.

During a 90-minute meeting in Annapolis, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Washington Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly discussed ways their respective police agencies could coordinate resources to better fight violent crime and drugs.

"We know we have a job ahead of us," Mayor Schmoke said during a joint news conference at the State House. But he said he believes the three governments "can set up a model of cooperation and intelligence- gathering . . . and I think we can really get something done."

Although the officials offered few details yesterday, they did say they are considering forming regional task forces on violent crime, vehicle thefts and fugitives. They also hope to improve the flow of information between the jurisdictions' computer data bases on guns.

"This is just the first meeting," said Mayor Kelly, adding that it was "not just a 'feel-good session.' "

The gathering was timely. Last week, Baltimore set a homicide record of 353 for the year, up from 335 in 1992. Washington finished 1993 with 467 homicides, the third-highest yearly total in the district's history.

For the first six months of last year, Washington and Baltimore were the second and fifth deadliest cities in the nation based on population, according to FBI data. During that period, Washington had a homicide rate of 36 per 100,000 residents, and Baltimore a rate of 23 per 100,000.

As crime networks have spread throughout the region, police need to look beyond their own boundaries and share information, said Mayor Kelly. She also said she hoped to include leaders from Virginia, Miami and New York in the effort. All three are sources of weapons and drugs in the area.

The governor and two mayors said they hope that yesterday's meeting will begin to help break down the turf mentality and legal barriers that sometimes prevent police from working together. For instance, Washington and Maryland police are legally prohibited from exchanging criminal histories of juveniles, said Bishop L. Robinson, Maryland's secretary of public safety and correctional services.

"That's where we're going to need, I suspect, some changes in legislation," said Mr. Robinson, who participated in yesterday's meeting.

Maryland State Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver, acting Baltimore Police Chief Melvin C. McQuay and District of Columbia Police Chief Fred Thomas also attended the meeting. The three police officials plan to meet in the next several days to draw up specific proposals. A second meeting between the governor and the two mayors is expected within a week to 10 days.

Plans for yesterday's gathering began a couple of weeks ago when Mr. Schaefer broached the subject to Ms. Kelly during a meeting on the Washington Redskins' proposed move to Laurel. Afterward, the governor's staff contacted Mayor Schmoke's staff and made the arrangements.

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