Frazier shows White House how to help youths shun crime

October 16, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Baltimore's police commissioner used the ornate setting of the White House yesterday to promote his youth crime programs and to describe to a national audience how his department helps troubled children.

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier showcased the Goodnow Police Athletic League Center in Northeast Baltimore with a five-minute tape showing officers helping children who otherwise might be out on dangerous streets.

"Mature police officers understand that we cannot arrest our way out of this dilemma of youth crime," Frazier told Hillary Rodham Clinton. "They understand that prevention is just as important as deterrents."

Frazier was one of several panelists discussing ways to curb youth violence at a daylong summit that included President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno and Education Secretary Richard W. Riley. More than 100 educators, counselors and criminal justice experts were in the audience.

Most of the day's events concentrated on school safety; the conference grew out of a spate of shootings at U.S. schools.

The White House released its first report on school safety, which concluded that crime in the nation's classrooms is declining, fewer students are bringing guns and nine out of 10 public schools report no violent crime at all.

But while speakers said school buildings are usually safer than ,, their neighborhoods, Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that "schools reflect what goes on in the larger community."

Frazier said police maintain a zero-tolerance approach to crime in the blocks surrounding the city's 27 PAL centers, which serve 7,000 children. A study completed in April showed that youth crime and victimization decreased around the Goodnow center.

Riley asked how police officers can help youngsters deal with problems ranging from solving math equations to coping with drug-addicted parents.

"We provide a safe environment," Frazier answered, adding that he recruits counselors and math experts to help. "When the TC question comes to whether to do whole language or phonics, that is out of my area of expertise."

Baltimore, concerned about the number of youths involved in violence, made juvenile crime a theme for the year. The department set up a Youth Violence Task Force directed at people 24 years old and under.

As of September, 101 people under 24 had died in city homicides this year. That includes 40 victims ages 18 to 20. Of 113 people arrested on murder charges this year, more than half were 24 or under.

Frazier agreed that "the message we want to send is that kids are very important to us. When you believe in your kids, your community will believe in you."

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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