11 February 2009

FLASHBACK: Homicides Up, Police Overtime Down

A.F. James MacArthur, Managing Editor

Despite a strongly delivered denial when this writer asked Mayor Dixon about a possible connection between an increase in homicides and police overtime being drastically cutback
(see press conference near end of video), there may be proof to support the assertion of many city critics.

In December 2008, Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton's article looked at the issue, disputing the official denial. "Detectives are being told, you can't finish working a case, you have to go home. We can't put foot men in a certain area, it will cost overtime. And district commanders are being beaten down if they spend over," according to former homicide Detective Robert F. Cherry. "You're lying to the public if you say we're attacking all forms of crime, and you're lying if you say the budget cuts have no effect."

Adding to the controversy is a widely held belief of homicide numbers being artificially low. This assertion has led to heated conflict and tension between City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, and Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, even prompting Councilman Young to hold retaliatory hearings, after being kicked out of a police COMSTAT meeting by Bealefeld. Young has called the Commissioner to testify before the council this Thursday (see prior post). Young questions the validity of t
he highly celebrated sharp reduction in homicides reported late last year. Many others also cast doubt when speaking off the record to this writer.

Although the total homicide count for last year did indeed show a reduction, in November, as Mayor Dixon's directive to greatly reduce police overtime took effect, the tide seemed to be turning. The month saw a record 31 homicides as part of a trend leading the murder rate back on track to it's normally high numbers.

While Commissioner Bealefeld, in an interview with this reporter (see video), has said we need to "stop focusing on numbers." As public perception of safety in Baltimore City continues to erode, it's hard not to think about it. Just yesterday, a reader in Ireland landed on The Baltimore Spectator after googling the search term "is Baltimore safe."

Clearly the national and international perception of Baltimore closely lines up with the onscreen depictions of shows such as The Wire, Homicide and others. No amount of rhetoric and denial will change the reality faced by so many who have lost a friend, relative or co-worker to Baltimore's violence. Ask any 10 people if they've been affected and I guarantee you at least eight out of ten people in Baltimore can tell you about the direct impact a murder has had in their life.

Although I continue you to ask, there's still no answer to the question, "What's Up Baltimore?"



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A.F. James MacArthur -- American patriot & lover of liberty.

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