Baltimore must try New York approach to control crimeI...

Letters to the Editor

December 19, 1998

Baltimore must try New York approach to control crime

I surely hope that R. B. Jones' and his friends do not believe that the solution to Baltimore's problems with crime lies in the choice of mayor ("Looking for a leader for post-Schmoke era," Dec. 14, Opinion Commentary).

The choice of mayor, or any other elected official, will have little or nothing to do with whether the city continues to self-destruct.

Baltimore is a city of general civil disobedience, a kind of low-level riot that continues day after day, pretending to be an aberration instead of a culture. Those who can afford to escape the culture of crime by leaving the city (or never entering the city), do so. Those who remain lack the will as a group to take the kinds of measures that would force the offenders into changing their behavior to conform to the law.

Baltimore would need to become a virtual police state for a long time if it wanted to clean up its crime, and that is politically unacceptable to its residents. Once enough people who can't tolerate the crime leave, the residents who tolerate or cause the problems become the majority, the ones who establish the values for the community.

New York has proved that where there is the political will, a city can recover from virtual self-destruction, but at a cost of personal freedom that is very controversial and that many of Baltimore's residents may not be willing to pay.

Anita Heygster


Police officers not needed to reduce school violence

Michael Olesker's column "Do police in public schools symbolize safety or fear?" (Dec. 10), in which he questions placing police in every Baltimore County school, could not have been more on the mark.

Nationally, juvenile homicides have fallen by an astonishing 46 percent -- from 3,102 to 1,669 -- since 1994 and are still rare compared with adult killings. Murders by juveniles dropped a whopping 28 percent in Maryland just last year, and overall, fewer than 3 percent of the killings in America involve someone under age 18 killing someone else under age 18.

It is no exaggeration to say that schools are some of the safest places for kids to be in Maryland. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is less than a one in a million chance of a being killed in a school. In the 1992-1993 school year, 55 school homicides were reported nationally compared with 40 in 1997-1998. By contrast, 88 people were killed by lightning that year.

As Mr. Olesker pointed out, fiscal and psychological costs would come with adding police to schools when they are not needed to keep safety.

Vincent Schiraldi


The writer is director of the Center on Juvenile Criminal Justice.

Not amused by review of night out in Canton

I read Tamara Ikenberg's unintentionally humorous report of a night out in Canton ("Canton nights now," Dec. 10). I don't buy The Sun to read this type of second-rate, hipper-than-thou, adolescent prattle.

I've been to the Austin Grill. That tart taste in Ms. Ikenberg's margarita was lime juice. For future reference, margaritas are not supposed to be "sweet, frothy . . . spiked Slurpees."

Having spent some time in the restaurant business, I know bad reviews can hurt business. If The Sun is going to bash something most Baltimoreans would celebrate -- such as the reborn American Can Co. -- its criticism should be based on substance rather than misplaced elitism.

Next time, leave the reviews to reporters who are interested in informing readers rather than in making self-indulgent, clumsy attempts at wit.

Perhaps by the time Ms. Ikenberg returns for her five-year reunion at the university where she honed her sense of superiority, she will realize that restaurants don't need to be dark, dirty or out of the way to be good.

Here's hoping the "predictably yuppie partiers" Ms. Ikenberg so scorns overrun the little-known, self-consciously authentic cafe.

Steve Kearney


Fed up with court system that freed convicted man

In reference to your article "Trial delay leads to dismissal of sex conviction" (Dec. 8), I want to express my utter disgust with the management of criminal cases in Baltimore Circuit Court.

The report relates the story of a man convicted by a jury of third- and fourth-degree sex offenses and assault upon a 12-year-old girl. A judge sentenced him to two years in prison. The case was appealed and overturned in the Court of Special Appeals because it violated the speedy trial provisions in the law. The case had been postponed nine times in 16 months because "no judge was available in the congested court . . . the trial bounced for months from judge to judge."

If Judge James R. Eyler, who wrote the decision for the Court of Special Appeals, thinks that justice was done, I hope he has the decency to send a Christmas card to the young victim and explain how it is right to release her predator because of the judges' error. Maybe he will sentence one of the judges who dropped the ball to serve the two years instead.

Geary Foertsch


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