Residents voice concern over crime

Shooting of officer in Patterson Park fosters community worry

September 12, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

About 150 residents of the neighborhoods near Patterson Park voiced concern at a community meeting last night about drug activity, prostitution and other crimes that they say persist, while police officials pointed to decreases in crime.

The turnout was due, in part, to the shooting Thursday of Baltimore police Officer Robert G. Cirello in Patterson Park.

A four-year veteran of the department, Cirello, was struck in the head and then shot by a male assailant who has not been apprehended. Cirello was wearing body armor that saved him from serious injury and was released after treatment at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Although the officer was not seriously hurt, the attack left area residents outraged, said City Councilman James B. Kraft, who organized the meeting.

Kraft, who chairs the council's public safety subcommittee, said the meeting was important to remind residents and police that they should work in partnership and to send a message to the city state's attorney's office and the judicial system that aggressive prosecution is needed.

Deputy Police Commissioner Marcus Brown and several police officials attended.

"When they call the police, they expect them to be arrested and for the state's attorney's office to prosecute them," said Kraft, who added that he supports the Police Department's efforts to make arrests for so-called "quality of life" crimes, such as public urination.

According to Maj. Michael Kundrat, crime is relatively low in the Police Department's Southeastern District, which is home to about 75,000 residents and whose officers patrol the park. He called Cirello "a young, aggressive officer who made a lot of quality-of-life arrests in the park, which, to me, makes a big difference."

Homicides are down 47 percent from last year and 64 percent from 2004, said Kundrat, the district commander. Also, nonfatal shootings have dropped 29 percent from last year, and 60 percent from 2004.

But many of the residents who gathered inside the Virginia S. Baker Recreation Center last night said drug dealers rule the streets and that officers are lax in dealing with them.

Joshua Goldberg, who owns property in Fells Prospect, said, "The police have effectively pushed a lot of crime out of the park, but it's now in the neighborhoods."

Timothy Almaguer, executive director of Friends of Patterson Park, said he has worked successfully with police to eradicate crime in the park.

"We bring people in the park to keep scary people away," Almaguer said. "You bring more positive activity in the park."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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