Police commissioner disputes editorial on Baltimore...


April 20, 2001

Police commissioner disputes editorial on Baltimore crime

The Sun's April 16 editorial, "Probing police weaknesses," badly misinformed its readers. There are several basic flaws with the editorial's argument.

First, the editorial premises statements such as "crackdown on homicides has dangerously depleted routine patrols in many districts" on the theory that the districts have, in fact, been depleted.

This assumption is false. Improved recruitment, reduced attrition and reassigning detectives from downtown to neighborhoods has increased, not decreased, the number of officers working to prevent crime in the nine districts. The number of police officers assigned to the districts is up 6 percent compared to last year.

Second, by using percentages rather than the actual number of incidents, the editorial misleads readers on the extent of the problem.

For example, the editorial reports that commercial robberies are up 21 percent in the Northwestern District and up 15 percent in the Southern District. This is a colorful way of saying there was one more commercial robbery per month in the Northwestern District, and one more per month in the Southern District.

Finally, the editorial's central argument that there is a connection between our concerted efforts to reduce murders and the recent increase in commercial robberies, makes no sense -- nor was any evidence presented to support this claim.

In fact, as demonstrated through the Northeastern District example, the targeted policing strategies that are proving effective in reducing murders also are successful in reducing robberies. As the editorial noted, while there was an increase of 45 commercial robberies over last year in the first quarter, overall, robberies are down by more than 300 -- or 19 percent.

My goal for the Baltimore Police Department is to reduce all crimes -- particularly violent crimes, such as robberies. Therefore, I am troubled by any increase, and take immediate steps to address such incidents.

Upon detecting an increase in commercial robberies in the Northeastern District earlier in the year -- which The Sun's editorial noted two months after the fact -- I directed patrol officers and detectives to target several hot spots. Because of this deployment (based on evolving crime patterns detected through Comstat), two arrests were made, solving 14 commercial robberies.

This timely, focused response resulted in a 33 percent reduction, compared to last year, in Northeastern District commercial robberies over the past month. Additionally, the editorial failed to note that because of our quick adjustment, commercial robberies already were down 20 percent citywide in last month of the quarter.

As we work to make Baltimore a much safer city, the press has a critical role in keeping the public engaged and informed -- including offering thoughtful criticism. However, this editorial missed the mark entirely, and grossly distorted the truth.

Edward T. Norris, Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore's police commissioner.

Budget coverage shows Sun's liberal bias

The Sun's liberal bias was quite clear in its coverage of President Bush's recent budget submission. The front-page headline, "Bush's plan may hurt Maryland" (April 10) may be true -- if you believe that the highest aspiration of a Marylander should be to fester as a career bureaucrat in a federal agency.

If, on the other hand, you are a proponent of devoting most of the increase in the national budget to nonpartisan priorities such as improving our nation's education system and military preparedness, then The Sun's typically parochial coverage seems more intended to persuade than inform its readers.

The Sun consistently fails to report the position of lawmakers concerned about sustaining an attractive, low-tax business climate. But private-sector job creation is a prerequisite for a reliable tax base to fund the federal programs The Sun so ardently endorses.

The Sun's tendency to espouse left-leaning political views forestalls any thoughtful analysis of the costs and benefits of reasonable spending restraints.

The Sun should be an unbiased news source, not an advocacy group for a more pervasive government.

Douglas G. Kotelly, Baltimore

At least the president offers taxpayers a break

The Sun's headline "Bush's plan may hurt Maryland" (April 10) was quite interesting. Of all things, President Bush is planning to return some our surplus to United States taxpayers.

What about Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan hurting Maryland? How much of the Maryland surplus is Mr. Glendening planning to return to taxpayers?

Robert Curtis, Bel Air

We'd be better off if Bush just twiddles his thumbs

So far, I disagree with every one of President Bush's decisions. I hope he comes to his senses and stops making decisions. We will all be better off if he does nothing for the next four years, and then goes back to Texas.

Grenville B. Whitman, Baltimore

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