Police plan to issue citations postponed Meeting set Sept. 17 to discuss program for nuisance crimes

September 10, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

The full-fledged assault on nuisance crimes scheduled to begin in Baltimore today has been put on the back burner until some of the city's top law enforcement officials have met with Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier about his ambitious plan.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, District Court Administrative Judge Mary Ellen T. Rinehardt and their staffs are to meet with Frazier on Sept. 17.

Frazier, who said last week that he would begin issuing on-the-spot citations to people committing about 30 nuisance crimes in lieu of arrest, failed to notify Jessamy and Rinehardt about the policy change.

Though Jessamy said she supports the policy change, she worried that a sudden influx of criminal citations would jam the courtrooms.

The meeting next week is to be a brainstorming session on how best to implement Frazier's policy.

The group will review the list of 30 nuisance crimes -- all misdemeanors -- that Frazier has targeted.

"We have to create a process to handle these citations through the system so that we can assure that they get as positive handling as possible without negatively impacting the system," Jessamy said yesterday.

She said that she wants to know how many citations Frazier plans to issue and how they will be processed.

Rinehardt stopped short of criticizing Frazier for attempting to implement a citations system without alerting her.

"Unwise," she said. "That is all I will say."

Rinehardt said yesterday that she hasn't heard from Frazier, and she was invited to next week's meeting through Jessamy's office.

Police spokesman Sam Ringgold said the citation system will be implemented but "at a slower pace."

Ringgold said the Southeastern District has begun implementing a citation system on a spot basis.

For years,Baltimore has had a citation system for about 15 misdemeanors, but its use has not been encouraged.

The new policy doubles the number of petty crimes that will be subject to citation.

The police commissioner said the new system keeps officers from being tied up in an arrest process that can take up to four hours to complete.

The policy change comes after much public debate last month among city leaders over zero tolerance.

City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and other council members criticized the mayor and Frazier, saying they were not doing enough to stem Baltimore's increasing homicide rate.

Unlike many urban metropolitan areas, Baltimore has seen a rise in its homicide rate.

For example, New York City had a 25 percent drop in homicides in 1995, according to the FBI's National Crime Index.

Homicides in Baltimore rose from 321 in 1994 to 325 in 1995, a 1 percent increase.

Overall, crime in New York and Baltimore declined in 1995.

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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