Bell to send delegation to N.Y. for 'zero tolerance' policing O'Malley says method may lower murder rate

August 07, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, an outspoken critic of the police commissioner's crime-fighting initiatives, said yesterday he is sending a delegation of council members and police officers to New York City this month to study firsthand its "zero tolerance" policing strategy.

"New York had been known as the rotten apple -- the city that personified people's fears about crime," said Bell, who met last week with New York City First Deputy Mayor Peter Powers to discuss New York's policing policies. "Yet their crime rate -- most notably the murder rate -- has gone down while ours has remained stagnant. The question is, why?"

One of the reasons may be New York City's adoption of a zero tolerance police policy, said 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley, who will be heading the delegation as chairman of the City Council's legislative investigations committee.

"Zero tolerance means that police are more assertive in cracking down on minor crimes, like theft," said O'Malley. "Statistics show that the perpetrators who commit minor crimes are the same people who go out and commit more serious offenses."

Bell has been considering sending a delegation to New York since February, after Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, at his reconfirmation hearing, rejected comparisons between the city and Baltimore.

Frazier could not be reached for comment yesterday. His spokesman, Sam Ringgold, said, "The City Council president can send anyone he wants to New York. Our position on this has not changed. We do not believe that a citywide zero tolerance policy will work here because it will utterly overwhelm the judicial system."

In 1993, Baltimore had a record number of murders with 353. That dropped during Frazier's first year at the helm to 321, then rose to 325 last year and has continued to rise through the first seven months of this year.

"In my opinion, zero tolerance is the way to go," said Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Baltimore police union. He is one of two police officers -- the other is a homicide detective -- who will go to New York with O'Malley. Three other members of the legislative investigations committee also are going: John L. Cain of the 1st District, Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. of the 4th District and Stephanie Rawlings of the 5th District.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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