2 groups help fund anti-crime measures

Abell Foundation pays for study of police

GBC targets homicides

November 23, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Two private organizations announced separate initiatives yesterday to pay for programs designed to revamp the Baltimore Police Department, reduce crime and cut the city's homicides substantially by the end of 2002.

The Abell Foundation is paying $140,000 to a team headed by crime consultants Jack Maple and John Linder to study police operations and implement a new crime-fighting strategy. The consultants are already at work at the behest of Mayor-elect Martin O'Malley.

The Greater Baltimore Committee -- a group of business leaders who challenged the community to cut the city's annual 300-plus homicides in half in two years -- is giving the city's Safe and Sound Campaign $145,000 to pay for a special prosecutor and surveillance equipment.

The new prosecutor will target the most violent criminals believed to be responsible for a majority of crime.

The programs are separate, but officials from both groups said they are meeting with each other to establish a cohesive plan to attack violence in Baltimore. Although crime is dropping, shootings are ahead of last year's pace and the homicide rate continues to be high.

The dual effort, said Hathaway C. Ferebee, executive director of the Safe and Sound Campaign, "is a pretty terrific opportunity for this city to get this under control."

GBC Chairman John Morton III, president of Bank of America Mid-Atlantic Group, called Baltimore's homicide rate "a nationally recognized detraction from our region's many economic strengths."

In August, the GBC promised to help reduce homicides, which have topped 300 annually for nine straight years. Morton said $500,000 has been raised toward that goal, and yesterday's donation is the first payout.

The GBC initiative is part of a campaign announced this year called Operation Safe Neighborhoods, based on a study by Harvard criminologist David Kennedy.

A similar program in Boston is credited with significantly reducing that city's homicides.

The campaign is based on the premise that a select group of criminals is responsible for most of the violent crime, and targeting the criminals can make a lasting impact.

Kennedy identified 3,000 top criminals in Baltimore, and police are working on cases against them.

Several arrests of suspects police call high-level drug dealers have been made. But the latest statistics show homicides might once again top 300 by the end of the year.

"I'm disappointed that things aren't moving faster," Morton said. "Any time we are experiencing the murder of our citizens at a rate of one a day, any program is too late. But I have a great deal of confidence that organizations designed to solve the problem are in place and are working together."

The other group involved in the fight against crime is the Abell Foundation, which has agreed to pay the $2,000-a-day Linder/Maple Group Inc. enough to fund its first two stages, until O'Malley takes office Dec. 7.

"Then he has the city budget at his disposal," said Abell President Robert C. Embry Jr.

New York-based Maple and Linder are conducting a top-to-bottom review of city police and their crime-fighting strategies, expected to be completed Jan. 31 at a cost of $407,250. The team has issued a highly critical preliminary assessment calling the force "dysfunctional" and says its approach could reduce homicides by one-third by 2002.

Embry said his group wants to help O'Malley, but has not come to any conclusions about the Maple-Linder team.

"The mayor should be allowed to carry out his strategy," he said. "These gentlemen are very plausible in terms of their credibility."

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