Database of city buildings being prepared to help in response to terrorism

Police intelligence unit gets higher priority

September 27, 2001|By Jason Song and Del Quentin Wilber | Jason Song and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Elaborating on Baltimore's plans for combating terrorism, Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and a consultant said yesterday that they are creating a database of city institutions and buildings to help the city respond to an attack.

The consultant, Louis R. Anemone, a former New York Police Department official hired by Mayor Martin O'Malley after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, said he has just started compiling the database. It will rank structures and institutions based on how important a role they play in the city's life and how city officials should protect them and respond to emergencies.

Norris, holding his regular monthly news conference, said that task is part of a broader effort to make Baltimore "the least attractive" target for terrorists. Norris and Anemone said the plan - which will lay out what city leaders and officers need to do in case of attack - should be finished in several months.

Anemone's $30,000, six-month contract was approved yesterday by the city Board of Estimates, two weeks after Norris brought him to Baltimore.

Separately, O'Malley told business leaders Tuesday night that the city needs blueprints of downtown buildings, as well as 24-hour contacts for every building in the central business district, to help safeguard employees.

O'Malley said in his speech at the Downtown Partnership's annual meeting that despite the inconvenience, emergency drills will become more frequent so the city can prepare for possible disasters.

The mayor also spoke of the Baltimore area's "unique and important assets" in the fight against terrorism, including the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense and chemical warfare expertise at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

On another police matter, Norris said he is beefing up the criminal intelligence unit of the force. Last week, he said, he made a "battlefield" promotion of the unit's commander, John Skinner, from lieutenant to major.

Norris said the unit is sharing information it gathers - from informants, residents and officers on patrol - with federal agents and police in other jurisdictions. "If you don't have good intelligence, you are really at a loss," Norris said.

Norris also noted yesterday that while there has been a "sharp increase" in traffic fatalities - 44 people have died in traffic accidents this year, compared with 30 during the same time last year - homicides are down. The city has had 176 homicides, a decrease of 15 percent from the same period last year, he said. Shootings are down 13 percent. Norris has set a goal of 225 homicides for the year.

Norris said he has increased the number of officers in the traffic unit from 14 to 54 to combat speeders and aggressive drivers.

Sun staff writers Scott Calvert and Caitlin Francke contributed to this article.

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