Thursday, December 28, 2006

Annapolis Crime is Up. Why?

With the special election for two Annapolis Aldermanic seats nearly upon us, and the end of the year crime statistics showing that serious crimes, including violent and property crimes, are up 12 percent in Annapolis this year, it seems as good a time as any to ask, "Why?" There have been twice as many homicides this year (8), 48 percent more burglaries, and 9 percent more robberies than were reported last year. According to Police Chief Johnson, "most of the crimes are drug-related or at least fueled by drugs." To anyone familiar with Annapolis, this isn't a surprise. All the while, crime in the County has dropped 1.6 percent from 2005.

The Mayor, quite reasonably, is frustrated, and searching for novel solutions, noting that her community policing, neighborhood watch, and social programs haven't seemed to have much of an impact on this year's crime rate, "Give me some new ideas." The Chief contends, "most of the crimes are being committed by the same people over and over again." Yet, in the next breath, he utters, "The whole criminal justice system is working from our perspective." Does he not see the disconnect?

Here's my question: "Given that most of the serious crime in Annapolis is drug related, and that much of the most "flamboyant" drug activity is taking place in particular sectors of the City (even if is being committed by non-Annapolitans, or non-Annapolitans are driving the markets), why is it that the City Police Department can't seem to nip this problem." The City isn't that large.

I would like to see the Police Department prepare a GIS layout of where each of these 2,181 serious crimes took place, and identify clusters, and then patrol these areas, with at least some foot patrols every night until several things are made clear: First, open air drug dealing is not going to be tolerated in the City of Annapolis. Second, the police are going to "protect and serve" every neighborhood in the city. And finally, residents across the City feel safe to leave their homes, even when the sun goes down. It would probably make sense to work in concert with the County Police to ensure crime doesn't simply skip outside the City limits. If this can't be done, I would very much like to hear why.

I have heard accounts that city police are "afraid to do their job." And, that by actually busting criminals, they run the risk of being accused of harassment and tarnishing their career record. So, rather than be effective, they choose to play it safe and turn a blind eye to certain types of activity. If this isn't the case, I would like to hear that as well.

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