Letters To The Editor


May 03, 2007

Welcome alternative to failed drug war

Mayor Sheila Dixon's plan for fighting crime in the city is another positive initiative in her brief tenure as mayor ("Dixon outlines city crime-fighting plan," May 1).

Targeting the most dangerous offenders, cracking down on illegal guns and strengthening community partnerships are all progressive steps.

City Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm called the mayor's plan the right strategy because he believes the city streets are now manageable. But he cautions that our streets are "still violent."

The commissioner did not say why our streets are "still violent." But can there be any doubt that street crime, murder and their incalculable cost to the city in dollars and the qualify of life are directly related to the profit generated by the illegal drug trade?

We have been fighting the so-called war on drugs for 25 years or more. But the hopeless and cynical attempt (i.e., "Just Say No") to stop the flow of drugs has not worked.

Our nation has one of the world's highest murder rates in addition to uncontrolled street crime, a skyrocketing prison population and generations of lost young people.

We have squandered billions, and continue to spend billions, on the drug war - money that could and should be used in support of the sort of programs Ms. Dixon has suggested to make our streets safe.

Yet the drug trade remains so lucrative that our streets are "still violent."

Take the profit out of street drugs and the street corners would no longer be the subject of tragic TV dramas. They could become again what they used to be - places to hang out and watch the world go by.

Twenty-five years of a failed strategy should tell us something.

But is anyone listening?

Edward J. Gutman


The writer is a former city labor commissioner and a former member of the Board of School Commissioners.

Dixon right to revive anti-crime strategy

Mayor Sheila Dixon deserves praise for scrapping her predecessor's approach to violent crime in favor of a more focused and community-friendly strategy ("Dixon outlines city crime-fighting plan," May 1).

Her program is remarkably similar to the Operation Safe Neighborhoods plan, which was instituted by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy in the late 1990s and which was already having a significantly positive impact when Martin O'Malley was elected mayor.

Homicides continued to decline during the early years of the O'Malley administration.

Sadly, Mr. O'Malley jettisoned Operation Safe Neighborhoods in favor of his signature zero-tolerance policy, which he stubbornly and foolishly pursued thereafter.

The results were a massive waste of fiscal and human resources, an extraordinary distraction from the business of fighting real crime, questionable arrests of thousands of people and the resulting alienation of entire communities even as the city's homicide rate edged up again.

Thanks to Ms. Dixon for this long-overdue, not-so-new beginning.

Barry C. Steel


Gun shops aren't source of violence

Excluding irrational acts by the mentally ill, violence begins at home, not in the gun shop ("Dangerous and armed," editorial, April 26).

It begins with parents who do not provide their children the love and care they need.

It begins with parents who do not teach their children right from wrong, good manners and respect for others. It begins with parents who do not supervise their children's activities and do not correct them when they do something wrong.

It begins with parents who spoil their children and do not teach them the value of patience, hard work, self-control and nonviolent means for conflict resolution.

If we want to reduce violence in our society, then parents must fulfill their parental obligations to their children.

And society must hold parents responsible for their children's misdeeds and punish the parents along with the children when children commit a crime.

Douglas J. Kingsley


Garbling the data on guns and crime

From Thomas F. Schaller's critique of my research to his claim that I am a political scientist (I am an economist), his column "More guns on campus?" (Opinion * Commentary, April 18) got it wrong.

The 2003 Brookings Institution study he cites claimed that the concealed-carry laws in two states were passed one year earlier than the date my research had used and that this supposed "coding error" implied there was no drop in robbery rates as a result of right-to-carry laws.

Yet, even ignoring the fact that the Brookings study did other things differently from the study I conducted and that other researchers have used the same dates I used, the results from the Brookings study still showed drops in murder, rape and aggravated assaults in concealed-carry states.

Most important, the Brookings study didn't even discuss the evidence I used on multiple-victim public shootings, which, given the attack at Virginia Tech, I thought was the whole point of Mr. Schaller's piece.

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