HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html City Police To Redeploy Officers
Pubdate: Wed, 07 Nov 2001
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2001 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Del Quentin Wilber


Actions taken in bid to curb outbreak of killings, violence; 'This is like 
a forest fire'; Shootings linked to high drug prices, more gang fighting

Concerned about a monthlong spike in homicides and shootings, Baltimore 
police officials are redeploying officers and ordering commanders to work 
night shifts to get a better handle on violence, some of which appears to 
stem from higher drug prices.

"This is like a forest fire," said Deputy Police Commissioner Bert F. 
Shirey. "It does not go out spontaneously. We either put out the fire, or 
it runs out of material to burn. We have to get in the middle of this 
thing, cool it down."

Police officials said they were still trying to get a handle on what 
sparked the increase in homicides - nearly one a day since Oct. 1. From 
Oct. 7 to Nov. 3, 68 people were shot - a 45 percent increase over last year.

However, officials note that violent crime overall - including rapes, 
robberies and assaults - is down 11 percent from last year.

Several homicides and shootings in the last month are apparently tied to 
higher wholesale narcotic prices and poorer quality on the streets, both of 
which have caused "friction" between drug gangs, police officials said.

"Things start getting tight," said Col. Robert M. Stanton, commander of the 
criminal investigation division. "It seems like something is going on that 
we weren't experiencing before. ... This may be responsible for some of the 
violence earlier in October."

Stanton said that the higher drug prices might stem from counterterrorism 
efforts at the country's borders, which make it more difficult to smuggle 
the drugs to Baltimore.

Stanton said that the most recent homicides - eight in the past five days - 
do not appear to be related, although several might be connected to past 
violence and crimes.

To combat the violence, police will eliminate two-man squad cars, freeing 
18 to 24 officers in each police district to work on "flex" squads, which 
commanders can dispatch to high-crime areas, Shirey said.

Police commanders have been ordered to work from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. - a 
tactic used earlier this year - to better supervise what is happening 
during the most crime-prone hours.

Police officials also plan to begin the annual holiday deployment of extra 
officers into high-crime areas earlier than usual, Shirey said.

The department usually dispatches more officers, many of whom have desk 
jobs, onto the streets to prevent robberies and other crime between 
Thanksgiving and Christmas, Shirey said.

Police also have dispatched about 25 tactical officers to Northeast 
Baltimore, where five people have been killed in the past 10 days.

Northeastern District has seen a 12 percent jump in violent crime during 
the past month.

But commanders will not remove officers of the mobile enforcement teams in 
East and West Baltimore, where violent crime has dropped 18 percent in the 
past month.

"We're hanging tight to those areas," Shirey said.

The redeployment comes after Norris said last month that his department had 
become "distracted" by its efforts to prevent and prepare for a terrorist 

It also follows state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden's comments on Monday that 
"Osama bin Laden is not on Caroline Street," and the police force should 
concentrate on first reducing crime.

Norris defended the measures his department has taken to protect Baltimore 
against a terrorist attack.

"The fact is, Osama bin Laden's people are here, and if he doesn't believe 
that, he's living in a fool's paradise," he said of McFadden. "We're at war 
now, and to not prepare for another attack on the United States would be 
completely irresponsible."

Police said that 218 people have been killed this year, 12 fewer than 
during the same period last year. That nearly ends any chance the city has 
to keep homicides under 225 by Dec. 31 - the department's goal.

Mayor Martin O'Malley has said he would like to reduce the number of 
homicides to 175 by the end of next year.
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