Community comes forth with cures for city's ills

August 11, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

YOU HAVE to hand it to Tyrone Powers: When you tell him you're having a solutions summit, he comes ready with solutions.

Powers - the director of the Institute for Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Public Service at Anne Arundel Community College - brought 10 proposals to 3rd District Councilman Kenneth Harris' "solutions summit" Tuesday night. Harris called the summit so that city pols could "step back and hear what everyday people have to say" about how to reduce crime in Baltimore.

"We don't have all the answers," Harris said of himself and his fellow government officials. Since Powers came armed with concrete examples of how to reduce Baltimore's crime, it should come as no surprise that Harris felt one of Powers' proposals stood out.

"I think we need to look at foot patrols," Harris said, which was the first solution on Powers' list. "We hear there's not enough cooperation between the police and the community. When you have officers out there doing foot patrols, there's more contact. When you get out of the car, you can start having conversations and cooperation."

Powers made sure his points were typed and available for any who wanted them among the hundreds attending the War Memorial Building for the summit. The document was 12 pages. Under the foot patrol section, Powers also suggested that foot patrol officers take a 16-hour course under Lt. Col. Neil Franklin, head of the Baltimore Police Department's training division, "to ensure that they understand the communities in which they are to be assigned."

Most Baltimore cops, Powers contended, did not grow up in Baltimore or any other urban environment. Sure to generate controversy and raise eyebrows is Powers' idea that state troopers assist city cops in the foot patrol effort.

Point 4 on Powers' list will not so much generate debate as get the man run out of the country.

"[The] Baltimore City Council and State legislators need to ... put pressure on the politically appointed State Liquor Board to immediately review the liquor licenses of all Baltimore City bars and liquor stores," it reads. The proposal continues:

"A goal of dramatically reducing the number of liquor licenses in Baltimore City should be immediately embarked upon. National statistics indicate that alcoholism is the secondary diagnosis in 70% of suicides, 80% of homicides, 90% of stabbings and 70% of all violent crimes. Half of those convicted of homicide in Baltimore City used alcohol just before their crime. Eighty percent of violent crime occurs within a five-block radius of open-air drug markets. In Baltimore City the majority of open-air drug markets are adjacent to or near liquor store outlets."

Powers said that when Chicago closed 27 liquor stores there was a 60 percent drop in homicides in the neighborhoods where they were. Baltimore, according to Powers' data, has 1,600 liquor stores - more than 26 of 50 states - in an 84-square-mile area.

Now one gets the feeling that Baltimore and Maryland pols have been aware of these figures for years, but don't expect Powers' Point 4 to be implemented soon. Not with the unspoken understanding in these parts that you don't dare touch the booze. You go after handguns instead.

Leo Burroughs Jr. had some ideas that won't get him run out of the country. The president of Roots of Scouting Inc. - who came to the summit in his Scout leader's uniform - may have to settle for a tarring and feathering instead. His proposals were both radical and draconian.

Burroughs wants the fields that grow plants from which drugs are produced in Turkey, Afghanistan and Colombia destroyed.

"We know where these drugs are grown," Burroughs said. "Let's napalm 'em."

Burroughs wants addiction treated as a health emergency but harsher punishment for violent criminals. Those convicted of first-degree murder should get life without parole. A 25-year, no-parole sentence is recommended for those found guilty of second-degree murder.

"Living conditions for inmates - let's make them less comfy," Burroughs said. Prisoners should have air conditioners on from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. only. There should be no television sets, radios or videocassette recorders in prisons, Burroughs said, but society should provide felons with job training and skills so they won't end up back in the slammer.

The leaders asked for solutions and got some challenging ones. Now it's time to see if they're serious about implementing them.

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