Letters To The Editor


July 18, 2008

New strategy is making headway on homicides

Annie Linskey reports in The Sun that some city judges are concerned about requests to strictly enforce probation violations for violent repeat offenders ("Sweep aims at the most dangerous," July 13). Judges are reportedly concerned about the erosion of their discretion.

Judicial autonomy cannot be undermined, and any efforts to co-opt this branch of government must be squashed immediately.

However, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III is not asking judges to indiscriminately detain probation and parole violators.

He is asking the judicial branch of our government to respond responsibly to the work of a coordinated law enforcement team that is making solid, legitimate cases against the city's most dangerous perpetrators of violence - those who have held our neighborhoods hostage for years.

Admittedly, this is hard to believe. After years of broad neighborhood sweeps and the need to expunge juveniles' records after false arrests, judges are right to be concerned about a loss of discretion.

However, the new strategy focuses on violent behaviors and only makes arrests after solid cases have been built.

The strategy is working - miraculously so. At a time when Philadelphia, Washington and New York, among other major cities, are battling a rise in homicides, Baltimore's rate of violence is down.

After years of an entrenched heroin epidemic that never gave up its hold on our city, homicides in Baltimore are finally in precipitous decline.

And we know why. It's the result of a carefully researched and strategically implemented plan that makes and delivers on three promises:

* Violence will not be tolerated, and violent offenders will be methodically removed from our communities - starting with the most dangerous. That's a promise.

* Any person who is caught up in the culture of violence and wants out will receive immediate support - drug treatment, and job training and counseling. That's a promise

* Communities working to maintain safe streets will be backed by city services and increased opportunities. That's a promise.

Under the leadership of a few, and backed by the efforts of many, these promises are being kept.

And we all know from our own experiences that if you make a promise, you better keep it - or the next time you make one, no one will listen.

Hathaway Ferebee, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Safe and Sound Campaign.

Too many deer damage watershed

In 1999, aerial studies showed the deer population at Loch Raven watershed to be about four times the area's carrying capacity. And new data from a survey done in March suggest that the area's current deer population is more than eight times what the land is able to sustain ("New plans to thin the herd," July 12).

After years of studying the problems caused by the area's unhunted herd, we have seen many instances of property damage by deer and by deer-vehicle collisions, as well as extensive habitat destruction.

Anyone who observes the watershed's forest can see the obvious lack of new growth. This lack of new growth, which other wildlife need to survive, is the result of the number of deer feeding in the watershed.

Science also tells us that an absence of ground cover in the area will directly affect the water quality of our reservoir.

We cannot afford to allow this kind of destruction of the forest to continue.

Those opposing a deer hunt often speak of advances in deer contraception. But the fact is that contraception is not a viable or cost-effective way to control the population of a free-ranging herd.

Opponents of a hunt also talk about fencing the deer in. But this is an unsightly and cost-prohibitive farce that would merely concentrate the habitat destruction that will ultimately lead to starvation and disease among the deer.

The current deer herd numbers must be reduced. The truth is that an area deer hunt should have begun in 1999.

Tim Wist, Phoenix

Only humans left to limit the deer

If some animal rights activists were as educated as they are emotional, they would know that many of our most fragile bird species need saplings or shrubs in which to nest and that deer overpopulation threatens these species ("New plans to thin the herd," July 12).

In the absence of natural predators such as bears and mountain lions, our only recourse to control the deer population is to allow human predators to step in.

Leslie Starr, Baltimore

Right to resist a zoning change

I take exception to the letter that characterized the Roland Park residents critical of the Keswick Multi-Care Center land deal as misguided ("Focus on land deal badly misplaced," letters, July 15).

The writer's analogy of the deal to a new homeowner not permitting kids to play in his or her yard clearly misses the point.

Keswick is proposing a plan that requires a zoning change for the land. Roland Park residents, as taxpayers of the city, have every right to vigorously fight such a zoning change.

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