Crime effort heats debate of mayoral candidates

Seven hopefuls meet in 2-hour radio forum

September 09, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

As it has throughout the summer, crime dominated the discussion of city mayoral candidates last night in a radio forum that included a critique and defense of the so-called "zero tolerance" crime-fighting strategy.

In an attempt to separate himself from his two major rivals in Tuesday's Democratic primary, mayoral candidate Carl Stokes attacked the policing strategy, telling a Morgan State University audience that it will lead to police brutality against minorities.

City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and City Councilman Martin O'Malley advocate the so-called "zero tolerance" strategy that touts cutting violent crime by enforcing laws against minor crimes to catch repeat offenders.

The plan, which has been credited with reducing violent crime in cities such as New York, Cleveland and New Orleans, includes streamlining the city court systems to remove more minor cases.

The effort has recently been questioned in New York, after two highly publicized incidents in which officers shot an unarmed black man and brutalized another.

Stokes said he would rely more on treating the source of the city's crime problem, by creating more drug treatment and after-care.

"I don't want the kind of rogue cops that will stop blacks and Latinos and pat them down," Stokes said.

"I won't have that in my city."

Policing the police

O'Malley told a group of about 100 in the audience of the two-hour debate -- sponsored by WEAA-FM 88.9, the Afro-American and the Baltimore Times -- that "zero tolerance" does not equate to police brutality.

Enforcing crime in the city also entails "policing our police," O'Malley said.

He boasted of serving as the chairman of the council committee that investigated allegations of a disparity in Police Department discipline for minority officers.

"Police misconduct is not the price of peace," O'Malley said. "It's the cost of complacency." Stokes and O'Malley were two of seven Democratic and Republican candidates invited to the forum.

Word from Republicans

Republican candidate Carl Adair used the discussion on crime to support current city Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

Adair cited statistics released Tuesday showing that crime in Baltimore dropped 9 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.

City Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway said she would create a drug czar to attack the cause of most violent crime, working with other city agencies such as health and housing.

Stokes and O'Malley said they would push for more drug treatment slots.

Bell, who arrived an hour and 45 minutes late from a Washington, D.C., fund-raiser held in his behalf, said he would expand the city's drug courts.

Addicts caught commiting crimes would be offered treatment or jail, Bell said.

The Republican candidates in the debate, including developer David F. Tufaro and Arthur W. Cuffie Jr., continued hammering at the Democrats, noting that the city hasn't elected a Republican mayor in more than 30 years.

"Clearly this city is not better off today than it was four years ago, eight years ago, 12 years ago or 16 years ago," Tufaro said.

Earlier in the day, Stokes unveiled two new television ads, unusual because they were filmed in black and white.

In the first 30-second ad, Stokes' grandmother, Arlene, sits in a rocking chair asking voters to support "my Carl."

Only native son

The ads tout Stokes as "Baltimore's authentic son," the only city native among the three leading Democrats.

Stokes received another endorsement yesterday, this one from the Baltimore City Teachers Association.

Immediately after the news conference, the teachers group mailed 1,250 letters endorsing Stokes to voters.

"Carl Stokes is the only candidate who has a comprehensive plan to improve the schools," said John Brown, president of the group, which represents more than 1,000 teachers citywide.

Stokes used the endorsement announcement to stress policy differences between himself and O'Malley.

"My opponents say, `Lock 'em up,' " Stokes said, in a news conference in front of the Barclay School in Northeast Baltimore.

"Education is a much better, stronger policy."

O'Malley endorsed

O'Malley picked up an endorsement yesterday from the City Paper.

The weekly publication credited O'Malley with being the most forceful of the three during their tenures on the City Council.

Sun staff writer Laura Lippman contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/09/99

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