Homicide editorial should have included ways to prevent...

Letters to the Editor

February 17, 1999

Homicide editorial should have included ways to prevent crime

The editorial "Getting away with murder" (Feb. 14) states: "Much of the blame for Baltimore's inability to address its prolonged murder crisis lies in the breakdown of the normal defenses put into place to protect a city's residents: police, prosecutors, courts and corrections institutions."

While I agree that changes are necessary (and they are occurring) within the city's justice system, I disagree with the editorial because it suggests that institutional problems within the criminal justice system are directly related to the city's high homicide rate.

The editorial discusses possible reasons for the murder rate, various problems afflicting the criminal justice system in Baltimore City and recommendations for improvement.

But it misses an important point: By the time the police, prosecutors, judges or jails ever see the face of a murderer, a life has been lost. Therefore, any real solution to the homicide problem should include a means to prevent killing.

Placing a million police officers on every corner cannot prevent a drug-related murder inside a rowhouse in East Baltimore; the fifth postponement of a case has no impact on a drug deal gone bad that results in a murder; an overcrowded jail has no effect on an unemployed man who commits a robbery to feed his drug habit or his family.

Many of these killers and violent criminals have progressed sadly, but logically, from troubled children in the city's juvenile justice system to violent offenders in the adult system.

Yet the article fails to deal with solutions for our young people. Why is access to guns so easy? Why is a life of hustling so appealing?

The best way to stop a leak is to plug it at its source.

If The Sun and politicians are serious about addressing the crisis of murders and guns, they may want to spend some time discussing strategies and implementing solutions to allow our young people opportunities to develop into something more than tomorrow's headline.

Moreover, writers at The Sun should use their influence, whether real or imagined, to promote change in the areas of youth services and juvenile justice. The Sun should give equal time to tracking the inadequacies of the city's services to our young and poor and offer potential solutions, as it did for the alleged "breakdown of the criminal justice system machinery in Baltimore."

Although my suggestion may not be politically expedient or front-page quality, it deals substantively with the homicide problem in which the media and the politicians appear to be so interested.

Finally, Baltimore's leaders may want to speak with the wise men and women of New York and Boston to discover that the reduction in crime was aided by an influx of positive programs that provided young people with an alternative to a life of violent crime.

Baltimore City should spend its energy on real solutions because preventing a murder is the surest way to alleviate the problem of people getting away with one.

Michael Finley, Baltimore

Homicide, courts editorial should be required reading

Your splendid editorial "Getting away with murder" should be mandatory reading for every city official and, indeed, for every citizen in the city and suburbs.

Lots of people share blame for Baltimore's depressing homicide rate, but your painstaking research makes clear that the two men with the greatest capacity to improve this tragic situation must cast aside some ideological baggage before real progress can be made.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's unswerving commitment to civil liberties is the kind of thing that impresses law school professors and wins moot court competitions. But in the real world, where this reflex has translated into a decade-long hiring freeze in the State's Attorney's Office and an implacable reluctance ever to get tough on crime, the result is that people die.

And Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier's commitment to diversity, which he interprets as a requirement that personnel be reassigned so regularly that his department resembles a merry-go-round, has produced similar ill effects.

It is shocking that the efficiency of the department's homicide unit has been compromised in a naive belief this will eliminate a glass ceiling for women and minorities.

Ideas have consequences. And, as Baltimoreans have seen for these past years, bad ideas can have fatal consequences.

Steve Walters, Lutherville

Too much empathy for freed defendants

I have read the article "Seemingly solid case evaporates" (Feb. 4), and I am appalled by the empathy given to Christopher Wills and Kevin Cox. Those two men are made out to be the victims.

It is stated over and over that poor Mr. Wills wanted his constitutional right of a speedy trial.

What about the rights of the real victims in this case? We can only be thankful that our streets were a little safer while these men awaited their trials.

Diane Dritt Amin, Phoenix

Mentally ill people have no right to guns

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