Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 26, 2002

QUESTION OF THE MONTH

Q: As The Sun's recent series "Justice Undone" makes clear, Baltimore remains very far from winning its battle against the violence that plagues the city.

What new steps should the city and area citizens and community groups take to stop the violence?

Drug dealers need to be prosecuted and sentenced to very long jail terms, without the possibility of parole. Police need to provide fail-safe cases to city prosecutors so they can insist on very harsh sentences.

Judges in Baltimore need to slam the door on a justice system that continues to release thugs back to the streets to continue their criminal ways.

Jury members have to remember that it is their city and that their actions can help eradicate criminals from the streets of Baltimore.

Community groups and surrounding communities can't solve Baltimore's problems as long as city residents refuse to help reclaim the streets.

A city isn't the buildings; it's the people. And civic pride is non-existent in some parts of Baltimore.

The mayor's "Believe" campaign is useless unless the citizens of Baltimore believe in themselves -- and they don't.

David S. Blair

Cockeysville

After reading The Sun's series "Justice Undone" (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) and reviewing the horrific details of the recent fire-bombing, I am at a loss for new methods to stop the violence. I would offer instead another variable often overlooked in such debates -- responsibility.

The epidemic of murder and violence that plagues Baltimore transcends numbers. And until everyone accepts responsibility for his or her part in the problem, no meaningful discussions can take place.

The individuals who commit crimes are just the tip of the iceberg. Equally culpable are the relatives, friends and associates who harbor these individuals. While they may not fire the weapon or pass the drugs, they share the responsibility for such acts.

And slogans such as "Believe" are defined only by the courage of those willing to step forward and say that they, too, may be part of the problem.

Matt McElwee

Catonsville

"Justice Undone," The Sun's series on sloppy police work, clearly demonstrates that law enforcement must do a better job prosecuting violent criminals. But cops and lawyers come after the fact. Plenty of parents have to share the blame.

Violence, like respect, empathy and love, begins at home.

Violence begins when adults decide it is not a big deal to scream at each other in front of terrified, impressionable children. Violence takes hold when anger becomes physical, and yelling combines with slapping or shoving.

Violence becomes routine when a grandparent OKs it in a whisper -- "He's just excitable when he drinks" -- or a teacher does nothing when told again that a girl slipped on the stairs.

Children are terrified of violence, until they grow accustomed to it.

When that happens, you get more violence -- and pretty soon a house is firebombed twice and anything less than 300 murders a year in the city is labeled by some people as progress.

Mark Dennis Smith

Baltimore

To understand the cause of violence in our city, we need to look to the foundation of our society. Family life is in jeopardy, and no amount of high-tech police work can replace it.

Churches and civic groups should be encouraged to develop neighborhood programs. Schools should discuss the advantages of family strength.

And politically correct may have to be replaced with socially correct to rebuild or even save our society.

Charles L. Leight

Baltimore

It is abundantly clear that there is a gross failure in both the juvenile justice system and the adult system.

We see rap sheets for juveniles containing 15 and more offenses. Yet at no time do some of these offenders spend any time in detention.

What does that say? It says in a loud voice that the system is in dire need of change.

The police need more and better training in how to handle evidence so that defense attorneys on the lookout for errors that enable them to get their clients off won't have a leg to stand on.

Police also need to be better trained in how to present evidence to prosecutors to guarantee a conviction. And evidence needs to be better safeguarded.

Finally, sentencing needs to be swift and certain to be meaningful. Put criminals behind bars and make them serve their full sentences.

A life sentence should mean exactly that.

Leonard A. Gardner

Parkville

We must begin to put teeth into the laws and stop coddling criminals.

The good citizens of Baltimore are almost powerless to stem the violence in their city without a strong judicial system that will enforce existing laws and enact stronger ones when necessary.

Once proved guilty, a criminal should serve his or her time without possible parole.

The authorities should turn a deaf ear to complaints about conditions in prison. Prison is not a country club.

And if the crime calls for a death sentence, that's the price the offender must pay.

That would be a good start toward making Baltimore a safer city.

Elizabeth Myers

Baltimore

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