Crime in Baltimore declines 9 percent in first 3 months of year

Community policing seen as reason for decrease

April 30, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Crime in Baltimore dropped more than 9 percent between January and March compared with the same period last year, a decrease city police and neighborhood leaders attribute mostly to community policing.

Community leaders say e-mailings between residents and police through the Internet, neighborhood meetings and a cordial relationship between authorities and residents also played a part.

"For example, we have extremely effective safety programs in our community," said Doreen Rosenthal, president of the Mount Royal Improvement Association. "The police give us reports and advice when they come to our community meetings."

Kent Sanders, president of the Penn North Community Association, said the department's commitment to neighborhoods, especially by sending representatives to community meetings, "has cut through a lot of red tape."

Most striking is the decline in homicides -- down 25 percent compared with the first three months of last year. The trend has continued through this month. As of yesterday, police reported 70 homicides compared with the 104 recorded between Jan. 1 and April 29 last year, a nearly 33 percent drop.

"In 1998, crime was at its lowest point in the decade," said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., police spokesman. "In the first quarter of 1999, the crime rate has pushed even lower."

Major John L. Bergbower is commander of the Southwestern District, where crime dropped 17 percent through last month. "A closer, more open data-sharing process with the community leaders is the biggest reason why crime is down," he said.

While Citizens on Patrol programs and the open exchange of information on wanted suspects and crime patterns has helped, Col. John. E. Gavrilis, chief of detectives, said the department has begun paying closer attention to violent offenders and parolees.

"If there are outstanding warrants, we work hard to serve them," Gavrilis said.

Doug Pryor, a professor and criminologist at Towson University, said the drop looks "promising." But he said more factors need to be taken into account before people start removing deadbolts from their doors.

"Whether this is a permanent drop, I don't know," he said. "You have to break it down with crimes carefully. If you see a drop for two, three or four years, then it [the crime rate] is down."

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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