Councilman proposes rewards for helping police solve crime

March 22, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

If a Baltimore City Council member gets his way, city residents will be able to earn rewards of $200 to $5,000 for helping police catch murder suspects and illegal gun carriers.

Southeast Baltimore Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. plans to propose legislation Monday night that would pay city residents for helping police solve crimes. Under the measure, any city resident who provides tips that help police catch a murder suspect within 48 hours could earn $5,000.

A second provision of the bill would allow residents to earn $200 for reporting persons illegally carrying guns. All of the reporting can be done anonymously, D'Adamo said.

"In the end," D'Adamo said, "everybody benefits."

A key snag for the cash-strapped city in making the bill a reality will be coming up with the reward money. Baltimore faces a $20 million deficit next year and a $53 million budget gap over the next three years.

D'Adamo hopes to tap local businesses for donations, saying that catching criminals will save the city money.

"It's saving the taxpayers in the long run," D'Adamo said. "If we put 20 people behind bars, that's $100,000. We'll save that in overtime."

Baltimore remains one of the nation's most violent cities, recording more than 300 murders a year for the past decade. The bloodshed is blamed on an illegal drug trade that the city estimates at $1 billion a year.

Part of the problem in solving many of the cases, prosecutors have complained, is reluctance by eyewitnesses to come forward.

A survey recently conducted by City Council President Sheila Dixon indicated that city residents also lacked confidence in the Baltimore Police Department's crime-solving skills.

D'Adamo unveiled his reward proposal at a council luncheon on Monday with Mayor Martin O'Malley and Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel.

Daniel declined to comment on the bill yesterday. O'Malley welcomed the idea, although he noted that the logistics of the program and finding the reward money need to be worked out.

O'Malley agreed that having citizens' help in capturing suspects and fugitives will eventually save the city money in police overtime.

"I like the idea," O'Malley said. "I'm in favor of the concept."

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