City a long way from halving crime, GBC says

But progress is being made, business leaders say

Commerce

May 16, 2000|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

One year ago, John Morton III announced at the Greater Baltimore Committee's annual meeting his goal of halving crime by 2002.

Last night, the chairman of the GBC took to the podium again, saying it hasn't happened yet.

Morton reminded those attending the GBC's annual meeting of Baltimore's grim rankings: first nationwide in robberies, second in homicides, third in assaults and fourth in burglaries.

That "daily bloodshed," he said, was detracting from Baltimore's advantages as a place to do business."One could think, mistakenly, that no progress has been made from what you read and see. But there is more to the story," said Morton, who is also president of Bank of America's Mid-Atlantic Banking Group. "There is a concerted, collaborative and dedicated movement quietly being put into affect that has a proven record of success and is showing positive, early results."

Morton cited last year's election of Mayor Martin O'Malley as "the single most significant action" in the crime-reduction initiative.

Also helping is the $550,000 the GBC raised over the past two years from 11 area corporations. They are: the Rouse Co., Allfirst Financial Inc., Bank of America, Bell Atlantic of Maryland, the Baltimore Orioles, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown and MedStar Health. The Baltimore Sun Co. made a $50,000 in-kind donation for advertising space.

The money is helping to fund Operation Safe Neighborhoods, a crime-reduction program that the GBC kicked off in Park Heights. The program included a "call-in," in which police brought in violent offenders in the neighborhood to warn them of the crackdown on crime. The funds also support a state prosecutor to coordinate Project DISARM, an initiative to sentence felons who possess firearms to a mandatory five years in federal prison.

Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the GBC, said the organization is "not close at all right now" to its goal of halving crime by 2002. With homicides on a pace to increase over last year, he said, the statistics are not good for the city.

The O'Malley administration has afforded the GBC opportunities to focus on crime as well as the efficiencies of government. Last week, the GBC's recommendations on the city's fire department led to O'Malley's announcement that the city would close seven fire houses and use the savings for ambulances and pay raises. About 250 GBC volunteers have been working on recommendations to streamline operations at the city's public works, housing, health and parks and recreation departments. Those will be released by the beginning of July, Hutchinson said.

Also at last night's meeting, Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the Abell Foundation, was awarded the 2000 GBC Regional Visionary Award. Embry was also elected secretary/treasurer of the GBC.

Comprised of 600 member businesses from Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, the Greater Baltimore Committee's mission is to improve the business climate of the region.

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