GBC’s Fry: Urging members to help expand Baltimore’s Safe Streets

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The Greater Baltimore Committee has accepted a challenge to engage businesses and non profits in the region in an effort to help Mayor Sheila Dixon expand “Safe Streets” to more posts at a cost of $2 million, $1 million of which the city has budgeted. Dixon is seeking $500,000 from area foundations and $500,000 from the business community for the expansion.

Based on a successful Chicago program, the Safe Streets strategy includes a unique outreach component where streetwise counselors, including ex-offenders, are hired to mediate disputes in crime-prone neighborhoods and to head off potentially violent situations as they are developing.

In the first three areas where Safe Streets has been deployed since July 2007, the combined homicide rate has been reduced by 80 percent, and violent crime is down 40 percent.

This strategy appears to be compatible with the culture in Baltimore’s distressed neighborhoods and is receiving strong support from community leaders.

The GBC is urging businesses to participate in this worthy investment to dramatically reduce the daily tragedies in Baltimore City neighborhoods that diminish the quality of life for all in Baltimore City and the region.

Contributions can be sent to the GBC Foundation Safe Streets Fund at 111 South Calvert Street, Suite 1700, Baltimore, MD 21202. Make a financial contribution.
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Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Baltimore City has persistently resisted crime-reduction strategies that were successful elsewhere. During the last 10 years, homicide-reduction strategies here have included one crafted by an acclaimed Harvard criminologist and another developed by a legendary New York City crime-fighting team.

Each resulted in modest homicide and violent crime reductions in Baltimore. But neither produced anywhere near the dramatic reductions the same experts achieved in Boston and New York respectively.

Now, Mayor Sheila Dixon and the city Health Department are implementing a new strategy called Operation Safe Streets that IS delivering the kind of crime reductions in our city that it achieved elsewhere.

Based on a successful Chicago program, the new Baltimore strategy includes a unique outreach component where streetwise counselors, including ex-offenders, are hired to mediate disputes in crime-prone neighborhoods and to head off potentially violent situations as they are developing.

In the first three areas where Operation Safe Streets has been deployed since July 2007, the combined homicide rate has been reduced by 80 percent, and violent crime is down 40 percent.

This strategy appears to be compatible with the culture in Baltimore’s distressed neighborhoods and is receiving strong support from community leaders.

Mayor Dixon wants to expand Operation Safe Streets to more posts at a cost of $2 million – $1 million of which the city will fund. She is seeking $500,000 from area foundations and $500,000 from the business community for the expansion.

Admittedly, this is one of many financial requests the mayor is making of businesses at a time when her administration did not reduce property tax rates and the City Council recently imposed new mandates and fees that increase business costs. More about that in my next commentary …

Nevertheless, I urge businesses to participate in this worthy investment to dramatically reduce the daily tragedies in Baltimore City neighborhoods that diminish the quality of life for all in our city and region.

Finally, Baltimore has a crime-reduction program that really works. We should make sure we do what’s needed to implement it.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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