Grant enables city to hire more police Federal program creates 100 positions for community officers

High-crime areas targeted

May 30, 1998|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON SUN STAFF WRITER PETER HERMANN CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- As part of an effort to target the nation's hot spots of crime, Baltimore will receive federal funding for 100 new police officers to saturate neighborhood streets where violent crime and drug activity are especially rampant, President Clinton announced yesterday.

"We have to focus our resources on high-crime, high-need neighborhoods to bring the benefits of community policing to every area," Clinton said in a Rose Garden ceremony with mayors and police chiefs from communities that will receive the money.

"In the difficult areas, that means we have to reach a critical mass of police officers in community policing before it can make the necessary difference."

The Justice Department grant of $106 million, for 738 community policing officers across the country, is part of the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets by 2000. The program was part of the 1994 crime bill passed by Congress that contained $8.8 billion for the police hires.

Baltimore, which is to receive $10.8 million over three years, is among 18 communities chosen for the new infusion of funds because of their high per-capita levels of crime and poverty.

No matching required

The money provides full funding for the new officers for three years and, unlike previous grants under the community policing program, requires no matching funds from the cities themselves.

After three years, however, the cities must begin to pay for the officers hired under the grant.

Baltimore has already received more than $20 million under the COPS program since 1994. The money has paid for 310 new police officers, among other things, according to Justice Department figures.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the additional 100 officers would be deployed in the most distressed areas of the city, East and West Baltimore, where gun violence and open-air drug markets have been intractable problems.

These areas, the mayor said, have not seen the decline in most types of crime that has occurred in other parts of the city.

"It's one of those chicken-and-egg situations," Schmoke said. "We can't be successful in high-crime areas unless we get communities involved with us. Communities won't get involved unless they think there's going to be an ongoing police presence. So with these 100 officers, we increase the visibility and then hold some of those areas that we have started police action in."

On duty by September

The federal grant dovetails with a "hot spot" initiative already in place in Baltimore, in which problem areas are identified weekly through a computerized analysis.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier also recently announced new strategy to put more officers and detectives in the high-crime areas and to pay officers overtime to stand on drug corners.

Under the terms of the Justice Department grant, newly hired officers will be funded at entry-level salaries with benefits and are to be on the street by September.

"The object of the game is to have them in a flexible mode so we can put them where we need them," Frazier said.

Quality of life

The Baltimore police commissioner said that while crime rates in Baltimore have declined 20 percent to 25 percent over the past three years -- except for the murder rate, which has not dropped much -- the success of community policing can be measured in less tangible ways, too.

"I go to Park Heights, and I hear, 'I can walk to the drugstore, and I couldn't do that before,' " Frazier said.

"That doesn't show up in a crime rate, but it shows up in how a city feels about a safe place to live and work and raise your family."

The latest grants, Clinton said, will bring to 75,000 the number of new officers hired across the country through the COPS program, toward the president's promise of 100,000 new officers by 2000.

Pointing to the decline in violent crimes rates around the country, Clinton called the police initiative "the thing that is doing the most to make America a safer place."

The other cities to receive grants:

Bessemer, Ala.; Birmingham, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Camden, N.J.; Chicago; Cleveland; El Paso, Texas; Flint, Mich.; Fort Pierce, Fla.; Fresno, Calif.; Greenville, Miss.; Hartford, Conn.; McAllen, Texas; Miami; Monroe, La.; Muskegon, Mich.; and San Bernardino, Calif.

Pub Date: 5/30/98

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