Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch on Tuesday credited a year-old law enforcement partnership with a major drop in Annapolis crime, and said the initiative should be extended to other parts of the state.
In the first year of the Capital City Safe Streets program, crime in Annapolis is down 32 percent, and violent crime - including homicide, rape and aggravated assault - is down 39 percent over the past year, officials said. In 2009, there has been one homicide in Annapolis, compared with six killings in the first six months of 2008. There were nine in the entire year.
"If our government can't protect public safety, we really can't do much else," O'Malley said during an afternoon news conference outside the Bywater branch of the Boys & Girls Club in Annapolis, where he was joined by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, city police Chief Michael A. Pristoop and other officials. "There is absolutely no reason why people in our great capital city should have to lock their doors and stay inside because of a few bad apples."
Safe Streets brings together city and county police, the U.S. attorney's office, the state Division of Parole and Probation and other agencies, with an emphasis on more strategic policing methods as well as closed-circuit cameras in high-crime areas such as the city's public housing complexes.
The program began last April and was funded with about $500,000 in state and federal grants and other money. It is continuing with $174,000 from the state's general fund and about $141,000 in federal funds through the governor's Office of Crime and Control Prevention.
Officials said the partnerships have proved fruitful. The Annapolis Police Department has served 22 percent more warrants in the past year compared with the previous year, and made 75 undercover drug buys resulting in 48 felony drug convictions.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein pointed to the case of a man arrested by city police in October 2007 with a loaded .357-caliber Magnum with six rounds of ammunition. The man pleaded guilty last November and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, Rosenstein said. Pristoop said the Police Department has installed cameras in the College Creek Terrace development and has plans to add three cameras by July to the Newtowne 20 and neighboring Woodside Gardens developments.
In the second year of the program, officials plan to boost community involvement through partnerships with youth and community groups.
Deneice Fisher, president of the board of directors at the Bywater Mutual Homes, a partially subsidized 308-unit development, said she has seen improvement in her neighborhood.
"We've been able to make a turnaround in this community we really love," said Fisher, a 20-year resident of Bywater. "You can come here and you see kids outside playing, people walking. It is not 100 percent here, but it's a far cry from what it was. It's progress."
An O'Malley spokesman said the administration has offered the program to other jurisdictions and is awaiting responses.