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May 25, 2007
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Balitmore mayor takes stand against city violence

Police overtime upped, suveillance cameras installed to quell crime

By Annie Linskey
The Baltimore Sun
Copyright 2007 The Baltimore Sun Company
All Rights Reserved

BALITMORE — Amid a bloody week in which 17 city residents were shot - four fatally - Mayor Sheila Dixon announced yesterday that she will selectively increase police officer overtime and move some surveillance cameras to higher-crime areas.

"The violence is unacceptable, and it has to stop," Dixon said at a City Hall news conference in reaction to the spike in violence. "I'm outraged that a small number of armed thugs can make so many citizens in this city feel unsafe in their own homes."

Dixon could not give figures on the proposed overtime increase, but she said that it would be targeted to specific units. As mayor, she has pushed reducing police overtime, compared with the prior administration, but she insisted that the new directive does not signal an overall increase in overtime availability for officers.

Deputy Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said that only some "highly motivated" squads would be allowed to take the overtime.

The mayor noted that violent crime in Baltimore is down, but acknowledged that city residents are shaken by the recent shootings.

"They have watched too many of their neighbors, including children, being killed in the senseless shootings that occurred on our streets every day," Dixon said.

There have been 75 more non-fatal shootings this year than there were last year at this time, an increase of 37 percent, according to city police statistics. The number of homicides is up, with 114 killings this year, compared with 104 at this time last year.

Recent victims include Jasman Elmore, 18, of the 800 block of W. Lexington St. He was a victim of a triple shooting Wednesday night at the 2300 block of Frederick Ave. Four others were shot, but not killed, that day in other incidents around the city.

Another recent homicide victim was Curtis Taylor, 22, of the 1200 block of Bloomingdale Road, who also died Wednesday. He was one of four people shot Tuesday evening on Mount Royal Avenue, near Guilford Avenue, a few blocks from Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station. Five others were shot in other incidents that day.

Killed Tuesday in separate incidents were Alexander Rose, 23, who was shot in the 2300 block of E. Fayette St., and Adrian Smith, 23, shot in the 200 block of E. 21st St.

We need other people to be outraged with us," Dixon said. "I don't think anyone wants to live in the midst of violence and murder and killings. Nobody does. We need to hear from them."

People who live in the first block of Gorman Ave. - near the scene of a shooting early yesterday morning - sat on front steps yesterday and worried about safety.

"You can't walk out here without being ... shot at," said Twinkle Scott, 22, holding her six- month-old boy on her hip. "This summer is coming, and there are going to be bodies dropping left and right."

Although everyone had heard about yesterday's nonfatal shooting, nobody said they knew who aimed the gun at a 22-year-old. He was struck in the right arm and shin when leaving a bar about 1:40 a.m. and was in good condition yesterday, said Officer Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman.

Deon Johnson, 13, said he heard gunshots. He said he wishes a police camera were on every block.

With his grandmother, LaTanaya Scott, looking on, Deon explained that the cameras would help solve crimes. He said such assistance is needed because most people, including himself, would never "snitch" to a police officer about a crime. "If someone tells the police and then that person finds out, they might get killed," he said. Adults nodded.

When Deon was 4, he said, his father was shot and killed.

Down the street, Janet Robertson was preparing for the funeral of her son, Alvin Parson, 22. He died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center on Saturday, nine days after two people rammed him with their car. Her son's death had been considered an accident but is now being investigated as a homicide.

When asked if she felt safe in her neighborhood, she paused for a while and said: "No."

"We as a community are trying to do something," she said, sitting in her living room. "But it is not working. It's hard when you have the drugs and the police that you can't trust."

At the City Hall news conference, Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm compared the relationship between the citizens of Baltimore and the police to that of a spurned lover.

"The way I look at trust in the community is the same way I look at a love affair," Hamm said. "If you've ever had a lover and you cheat on her, how are you going to get that trust back?"

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