Ehrlich takes offensive in ad on crime

October 25, 2002|By Tim Craig

Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. began airing a television advertisement that focuses on Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her record as the state's crime czar. The spot is airing in the Baltimore and Washington markets.

What the ad says: The 30-second spot begins with the word "FACT" that fades into a photograph of Townsend and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"The Glendening-Townsend record on crime; the FBI reports Maryland has one of the highest crime rates in the nation," the announcer says, as an image notes that the state ranks first in robberies and third in homicides.

"Kathleen Townsend's juvenile boot camps were forced shut. Kids were beaten and abused by guards.

"This year, Glendening-Townsend failed to perform routine background checks required by law and they allowed hundreds of criminals to purchase guns illegally," as the mastheads of The Sun and The Washington Post flash on the screen.

The photograph of Glendening and Townsend then reappears. "They had eight years to get it right. It's time for a change," the announcer concludes as Ehrlich's name appears.

The facts: The ad correctly notes that FBI crime statistics for the year 2000 show Maryland has the nation's highest robbery rate and third highest murder rate.

But the Townsend campaign notes those same statistics show that serious crime in Maryland dropped 23 percent from 1995 to 2000, the last year for which complete FBI statistics are available.

The spot also mentions Townsend's role in overseeing the juvenile justice system at a time when boot camps for youths were forced to close.

After Glendening was elected in 1994, Townsend held up boot camps as one of the keys to reducing juvenile crime. In 1997, three boot camps opened in Western Maryland.

Two years later, The Sun reported guards routinely beat the juveniles at the camps, and all three camps were later ordered closed.

The spot's claim that Glendening and Townsend "allowed hundreds of criminals" to buy guns illegally is misleading.

Ehrlich is referring to reports two weeks ago noting that this year the Maryland State Archives stopped cooperating with the FBI on background checks for four months.

The FBI needed the state archives office - which refused to do the checks due to budget constraints - to determine if gun buyers arrested before 1982 had been convicted.

The lapse may have resulted in as many as 500 gun buyers with arrest records not being screened. But it cannot be determined how many of those arrested were convicted of a crime, although state officials estimated it was 25.

Three years ago, flaws were found in the state system designed to prevent handgun purchases by people with protective orders against them for domestic violence.

Analysis: For weeks, Townsend and her staff have been hammering Ehrlich's record on gun control. In this spot, Ehrlich points out gun laws not fully enforced by the Glendening administration.

The ad takes the offensive in the crime and gun control debate, first aired as the region was gripped by fear because of the serial sniper.

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