City aims to recruit residents in crime fight

Conference to discuss ways to get involved in neighborhood watch

About 25 areas are priority

Dawson family's deaths one reason for program

November 04, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration will begin recruiting residents to fight crime at a citywide conference next week aimed at showing neighborhood activists how to get involved without risking their safety.

Many city residents have been scared of helping police by what happened to the Dawson family, officials said.

The family's seven members were killed Oct. 16 last year in an arson set by a drug dealer seeking revenge for their involvement in fighting crime. Darrell L. Brooks pleaded guilty in August and was sentenced to life in prison.

"The mayor does not want any more martyrs," Kevin Cleary, coordinator for Operation Crime Watch, told the City Council yesterday.

Cleary said the federally funded Operation Crime Watch will run for three years on a budget of $140,000 a year and will be similar to the Operation Town Watch in Philadelphia.

Following that program, Baltimore has implemented a system so that calls to 911 do not result in a police car showing up at a caller's house if requested, he said.

The city will hold a citywide conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at Frederick Douglass High School on Gwynns Falls Parkway.

The conference's goal is to recruit retail merchants and individuals interested in or already involved in "block watch" and "citizens on patrol" programs.

The conference also aims to train individuals in how to implement block watch initiatives and to strengthen police and community bonds.

City neighborhood watches are carried out on an ad hoc basis, with no administration to coordinate them, keep records, analyze patterns or compare methods to determine which are most effective, city officials said.

About 20 to 25 neighborhoods have been chosen as top-priority areas, Cleary said. They include Reservoir Hill, Pigtown, Cherry Hill, Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, Morrell Park, Sandtown-Winchester, Patterson Park and Belair-Edison.

The program is a collaboration of the Police Department, the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is providing the three-year funding through the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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