Mayor Sheila Dixon disputed links yesterday between budget cuts and a November uptick in homicides, noting that the Police Department has been working with reduced overtime all year as murders have fallen.
"I think what wasn't stated [in recent news reports] is that all year overtime has been reduced," Dixon said. "Over the last year, crime has gone down."
So far this year, 221 people have been killed in Baltimore, compared with 270 by this time in 2007. There has been almost no change in violent crime - which includes shootings and assaults - from last year.
Despite the overall homicide drop, there were 31 killings in the city last month, the bloodiest November in nine years. That was followed by seven more homicides during the first seven days in December.
The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday that Robert F. Cherry, the head of the city's police union, said that investigations and patrols have been stymied by recent deep budget cuts. "Trends will show that if you give the criminal element room to maneuver, they will maneuver," Cherry said. "The fact that we have crime going in the right direction means hold the line" on spending levels.
Facing a shortfall, Dixon asked agencies in October to cut $35.6 million in the current budget year, including $6.8 million from the Police Department budget. The administration shifted officers in some specialized units to more routine patrol duties to provide fuller coverage without incurring overtime.
Dixon has directed the Police Department to find roughly $15 million in cuts for the next budget year, which begins in July 2009. She is also seeking changes to the police and fire pension funds to save money.