$1.4 million in city, state, federal aid approved to beef up prosecutor's office

Grants cover 29 new jobs

aim is to unclog courts

February 24, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy received yesterday the $1.4 million she had requested to hire 29 additional people for her office to help unclog city courts.

The city Board of Estimates unanimously approved the package of state, federal, city and private grant money that the city's top prosecutor has called crucial to implementing reforms requested by Mayor Martin O'Malley, including staffing the city's Central Booking and Intake Center full time.

"We've been asking for this money for years," Jessamy said after the positions were approved. "We're very pleased that we've been given the money to do what we need to do."

In exchange for the funding, prosecutors will begin charging suspects arrested by Baltimore police around-the-clock, which should result in dropping weak cases from the clogged court system sooner and allowing officers to immediately get back on patrol.

"We're taking a great leap of faith," O'Malley said yesterday of the new funding. "We're hoping that the District Court will help us in this effort."

The $555,840 in city funding unanimously approved by the five-member spending board will add 12 positions to Jessamy's central booking operation, including a chief state's attorney, senior prosecutor, five assistant state's attorneys, four legal assistants and a senior paralegal.

An additional 12 positions funded through $550,835, pledged through state Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's office, will be added to Jessamy's Firearms Investigation and Violence Enforcement unit. The money will allow the squad, created to track gun cases and focus on repeat violent offenders, to gain a senior prosecutor, five assistant state's attorneys, three victim specialists, a clerical assistant and a computer specialist.

An additional $124,000 from Townsend's office will add two assistant state's attorneys positions to Stopping Adolescence Violence Early.

An assistant state's attorney, a prosecutor and a paralegal also will be hired to handle a youth gun violence initiative through a $103,775 federal block grant.

The Greater Baltimore Committee business group is contributing $61,800 to add an assistant state's attorney to Jessamy's operation to prosecute handgun cases in the federal and state courts.

Despite the increase, Jessamy said, she will seek an additional $6.2 million in the next city budget session for more support staff, homicide prosecutors and operating costs to bring her office up to what she considers the necessary staffing.

In other public-safety-related action, the board:

Agreed to spend $703,212 to extend the city's warranty agreement for maintenance of the fire, police and public works communication system.

Approved a $489,569 work order to add two driveway lanes to the construction of the Northern District police station at 2201 W. Cold Spring Lane. The city has been reimbursed for the additional lanes by Loyola College, which will share the four-lane driveway with police to accommodate a new school athletic facility on the adjacent property.

Spent $60,000 for 700 radio ads over a three-week period to recruit more minorities for the city police force.

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