Don't be confused by 'HotSpot' Not just police: Effort requiring local, state and federal cooperation sounds familiar.

March 19, 1997

ONE SMALL PROBLEM with the new "HotSpot Communities Initiative" launched yesterday by Attorney General Janet Reno at the Baltimore Convention Center: The program has the wrong name. It brings to mind previous efforts to reduce crime in targeted neighborhoods by designating them "hot spots" and temporarily increasing the police presence in them. The new initiative involves much more than that.

"HotSpot" is an outgrowth of the successful Comprehensive Communities Program that is being given a lot of the credit for a 56 percent reduction in violent crime in Southwest Baltimore's Boyd Booth community. The most important element of CCP isn't the size of the police force, but the amount of responsibility for fighting crime taken by neighborhood residents -- not as vigilantes, but as good citizens working with police and other agencies to erase undesirable situations that produce crime.

"Community mobilization," in which civic and religious activities become a means to take back public space appropriated by drug dealers and other criminals, is the keystone of CCP and the new "HotSpot" initiative.

Other elements include "community policing," with enhanced police efforts to solve crime-related neighborhood problems; "community probation," where probation and police officers monitor adult and juvenile offenders on parole and probation; and "community maintenance," which calls for government to respond when an abandoned house, vacant lot or other situation attracts criminal activity. Ms. Reno said crime is going down across the nation as responsibility shifts from the federal government to state and local governments.

About $3.5 million in state and federal grants will be available for 36 "HotSpot" communities in Maryland. But, more than money, the program's success or failure will depend on whether the people who say they are tired of living with crime work together to fight it.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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