Mayor pressured on crime strategy

April 24, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake asked officials in Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration yesterday to outline specific plans for dealing with violent crime, weighing in on an issue traditionally overseen by the mayor.

Rawlings-Blake, who took over the council presidency when Dixon became mayor in January, also introduced a City Council resolution yesterday that calls on police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm and other city leaders to explain the administration's plan to address crime.

Though the resolution is nonbinding - and though the City Council has virtually no power to alter the budget proposed by the mayor - Rawlings-Blake's decision to pursue the matter with a resolution is politically significant because it pressures the administration to outline its crime-fighting approach in detail.

"It is so very important that we use city resources efficiently," Rawlings-Blake said, a subtle suggestion that various city departments might be duplicating their efforts. "The safety of our citizens should be the highest priority of all of our agencies."

Rawlings-Blake, long considered an ally of Dixon, has introduced the resolution about three months into Dixon's term. The new mayor has talked about a more "holistic" approach to crime, including making guns and youth offenders a priority, but the administration has struggled to explain its approach in detail.

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for the mayor, said the administration will unveil a specific crime plan soon. He said that many of the administration's efforts are already under way.

"Mayor Dixon appreciates all of the input and the suggestions from her colleagues in government when it comes to dealing with this very important issue," McCarthy said. "Mayor Dixon is poised to launch a public safety plan for the city of Baltimore that has already begun and believes that we need all the partnership possible."

The administration appears to be stepping away from the aggressive arrest policy favored by Dixon's predecessor, Martin O'Malley. Instead, police are focusing more attention on repeat offenders, especially young offenders, and more aggressively targeting gun violations.

Matt Jablow, a police spokesman, said Hamm would appear before the council if the resolution is approved, as he has in the past. The council will hold hearings on the fiscal year 2008 budget in May and will vote on the spending plan in June.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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