Rolley: Rawlings-Blake lacks 'real' crime plan
Mayoral challenger Otis Rolley said at a Friday news conference held across the street from where a 91-year-old woman was fatally stabbed to death this week that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lacks a “real plan” to address crime.
“Instead of providing leadership or proposing a real plan to make every neighborhood safer, she's running campaign commercials touting a drop in crime that began under another mayor,” Rolley said. “She knows crime is too high and she has no plan to make us safer.”
Rolley, the former city planning director, said Rawlings-Blake's strategy focuses only on “catching criminals” and not reducing crime. His plan, which he claims is the only one being offered by any of the candidates, goes beyond law enforcement and includes proposals to increase spending on youth programs and reduce recidivism by “eliminating barriers for ex-offenders.”
Rawlings-Blake this week released radio and TV ads focused on crime, saying she has worked to strengthen gun laws and avoided laying off police officers in tough budget times. Since taking office in January 2010, she has largely continued the policies that were already in place that dropped the city's murder rate to its lowest mark in 22 years, with an added emphasis on pursuing additional surveillance camera technology.
Despite the declines, Baltimore also remains one of the most deadly in the country as crime has dropped across the country. Rolley’s remarks coming on the heels of a week that saw two 15-year-olds gunned down in Southwest Baltimore and 91-year-old Irene Logan - the mother of a family friend of Rawlings-Blake - fatally stabbed inside her Northeast Baltimore home. For the year, murders are up slightly compared with a year ago.
Rawlings-Blake's campaign hit back by mocking Rolley’s crime plan, which includes among its proposals the institution of a bullet tax. The idea got nationwide attention, though much of it negative.
“His crime plan is literally a joke from Chris Rock,” said spokeswoman Keiana Page, referring to a routine from the comedian's 1999 special Bigger and Blacker (link contains explicit material) in which the he jokes that shootings would drop if bullets were more expensive. “But crime in Baltimore is a serious challenge that needs serious solutions. ... Her crime strategy is not only real, but it is working.”
“Murders have reached their lowest level in 26 years, gun crime is down, and citizens, elected officials and police officers are working together to make neighborhoods safer,” Page said.
Other candidates have also been rolling out plans for reducing crime. State Sen. Catherine Pugh said she would audit police department statistics and reorganize the department. Former City Councilman Joseph T. “Jody” Jody Landers has spoken about drug treatment programs and wants police commanders to be more accessible. Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. says his platform is “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
In addition to his proposals dealing with youth and ex-offenders, Rolley would reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession and said he wants to create a public safety cabinet that brings together officials from various city agencies, such as police, housing, social services, schools, and recreation and parks, to come up with ways that their agencies can complement each other.
Rolley, who as former Mayor Sheila Dixon's chief of staff had advised her to hire DC police chief Charles Ramsey, has repeatedly offered a muted endorsement of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
“You saw a sharp difference when Bealefeld was reporting to the last elected mayor, and when he started reporting to the current appointed mayor,” Rolley said. “We started seeing a spike in crime when the Police Department stopped feeling like they had a mayor that had their back. The main change needs to happen at City Hall.”
As of Thursday, murders in Baltimore were up, with 129 people slain compared with 124 at the same time last year. As of July 23, the most recent statistics available, non-fatal shootings were down 3 percent and overall gun crimes were up 6 percent compared to the same period last year. Total crime is unchanged.