Neighbors helping cops Police work: Not even his blindness stops Robert Nowlin Sr. from confronting criminals

July 10, 1996

It's ALWAYS EASY to point a finger at police whenever a community appears to be lost to lawlessness. People are learning, though, that there will never be enough officers on the streets to catch every criminal and stop every crime. They are learning that if they want safe neighborhoods, they have to help the police make them safe. Community policing doesn't work without the community.

In that context, it is heartening to read about Robert Nowlin Sr. (July 9, "Seeking safety in the city"), the president of the Pen Lucy Association in North Baltimore, who doesn't mind confronting hoodlums. Even though he's blind. His example has given courage to neighbors who join him in patrolling their streets.

The police would neither expect nor desire others to completely follow the example of Mr. Nowlin, who has so enraged criminals that they have shot into his home and his car. He says drug dealers must have thought he was stupid as well as blind, because they would discuss their plans openly when he walked past.

The Pen Lucy Association and Govans Ecoportance in light of mid-year statistics showing Baltimore's homicide rate is rising. There were 169 murders in Baltimore during the first six months of this year. At that pace, the city could end 1996 with nearly 340 homicides, compared to 325 last year and 321 in 1994. The city set a record of 353 homicides in 1993.

The new figures make Baltimoreans envious of cities such as New York that have seen their crime rates drop. But keep in mind that New York's "zero tolerance" policy is only part of the reason for its law enforcement success. It also significantly increased the size of its police force last year and expects to do so again with a new federal grant that should put 800 more officers on the street over the next three years.

With tighter budgets expected, Baltimore has no plans to expand its police force. This city is depending on strengthened police/community relations to help reduce crime. That means it needs more people like Mr. Nowlin.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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