City to get U.S. funds

$28 million in grants OK'd in last days of Clinton administration

Pay for 200 police officers

Money will let city provide treatment to 1,000 drug addicts

January 19, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

In a final-week windfall from the Clinton administration, cash-strapped Baltimore received $28.8 million from the federal government yesterday to put 200 more police officers on the streets and pay for treating more than 1,000 drug addicts.

The money will also fund the staffing of Police Athletic League centers, put portable computers in city police cars and buy a high-tech video surveillance system to keep an eye on violence-prone drug corners.

"We're going to save a lot of lives with this money," said Mayor Martin O'Malley, speaking at a news conference at the Man Alive Research drug treatment center on North Charles Street.

The funding arrives at a crucial time for the city, which faces an estimated $28 million budget shortfall after making a heavy investment in public safety in O'Malley's quest to reduce crime in the city.

The mayor, who had gone to Washington to make a personal appeal for increased police funding, characterized the grant money as a huge "relief."

He said he would have tried to hire the additional police officers anyway but was looking at making tough cuts that could well have included curtailing city services, closing a recreation center and laying off workers from other departments.

"We were looking at seriously cannibalizing an already lean city government," O'Malley said.

The infusion of money represents the largest one-time grant to city police, officials said, and helps Commissioner Edward T. Norris implement his crime-fighting plan across the city.

He had asked the U.S. Justice Department to fund 500 officers, but said yesterday that he is satisfied.

"You shoot high," Norris said, adding that extra troops for his 3,200-member force will enable him to create a roving squad that can quickly be deployed to trouble spots, much like a 120-member contingent that has helped reduce crime on the city's east side.

"They will be put to very good use," Norris said. "We will be taking back the drug corners from the drug dealers and giving them back to the people who deserve them."

In addition to the police funding, the grant money will also allow Baltimore to:

Hire 18 coordinators for Police Athletic League centers at a cost of $750,000, freeing officers to return to street patrol.

Buy a $1 million surveillance system to train cameras on drug corners and monitor activity from police headquarters.

Spend $500,000 toward $4 million needed to buy portable computers for police cars that will allow officers to write and file reports while on patrol and for a global positioning system so dispatchers can keep track of each vehicle on the streets.

Treat drug addicts at inpatient and outpatient clinics with $2.2 million in funding. That is in addition to the $25 million pledged Monday by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to the city over the next three years.

Officials said it was the combination of tough law enforcement and treatment that won over grant officials.

"We know that your strategy is not only about tough, muscular policing - you want to do prevention," said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Michele L. Greene, 36, a recovering drug addict from Parkville, said the city, with an estimated 60,000 drug addicts, needs all the help it can get.

"It helped me, let's help them," she said at the mayor's news conference.

O'Malley has made reducing crime his top priority, and he ended his first year in office with homicides numbering less than 300 for the first time in a decade.

It was that success, said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, that persuaded him to give Baltimore the money.

He said O'Malley and Norris convinced justice officials that they had a well-defined and proven plan to make Baltimore, one the nation's most violent cities in 1999, safer.

During one conversation several months ago, Holder told city leaders: "Sometimes in our obsession to make the bigger case, we lose sight of the fact that the 300 young men killed on your streets every year are also United States citizens, and we can do better."

The grant money comes from Clinton's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), part of his crime reduction plan for putting 100,000 officers on the nation's streets. Over the past six years, officials said, 109,000 new officers have been put on patrol.

The COPS office - a U.S. Justice Department agency - is run by former Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, who said he recuses himself from all decisions about his former hometown.

The largest amount of grant money, $24 million, is for the 200 city officers, which will bring to 681 officers funded by the COPS program over the past six years.

The grant pays for 90 percent of the officers' salary, training and equipment for the next three years, with the city picking up the remaining 10 percent, and then the full tab for a fourth year.

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