ANNAPOLIS – For Maryland Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore, street crime is getting too close to home.
“The criminals seem to have better weapons than we do,” he told the House Appropriations Committee last week. “An officer was murdered with a heavy automatic just two days ago, right around the corner from my house. . . .My wife was home by herself.”
Another officer was shot in the leg with a .44-caliber handgun or a “cannon,” earlier that day, he said.
Knowing that kind of firepower is on his neighborhood streets, gives McFadden all the more reason to push for a bill to give more ammunition to police officers who are fighting the war on crime.
To make up for equipment shortfalls, the bill will set up a $2 million fund to provide police officers statewide with “technologically savvy stuff” like raid jackets, surveillance equipment, prison transportation vehicles and cell-telephone tracking devices.
More crime-stricken jurisdictions like Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s will benefit the most from the measure because allocations will be based on the number of crimes rather than population.
Although the measure is in the House Appropriations Committee where it died last year, Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, said he’s certain it will pass.
But the governor hasn’t put the money in the supplemental budget he released Friday, Rawlings said.
That means it will be a “passed bill with no teeth” as Aaron Greenfield of Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s office said.
There’s still a chance, according to the governor’s spokeswoman, that Glendening will look over the bill and issue a second supplemental budget.
Even the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which is supposed to supervise the fund, is unsure of what will happen with the bill.
“We don’t even know if the governor will sign it — we all know the concerns over the budget” said Joe Sviatko, spokesman for the crime control office. “But if it is signed, we will administer it.”
The governor’s office is predicting a tiny budget surplus at the end of this year, about $7 million, and new estimates say the state could have a $300 million deficit in 2003.
Baltimore, which has the highest incidence of violent crime in the state, is in particular need of this measure — one reason O’Malley personally testified for the bill.
Several police officers in the past two weeks have been wounded, some killed while fighting to carry out O’Malley’s No. 1 priority to rid city streets of drugs and violent crimes.
“They’re using guns – 15 inches long, with 9-and-a-half-inch barrels. In other words, this will blow you to kingdom come,” McFadden said. “It’s time to even out the score.”
Cameras allowing officers to see a 10-block radius, are one way to even the playing field according to Delegate Salima Marriott, D-Baltimore.
“It will allow them to zoom in on crime scenes that are distances away, so they can have their eyes and ears in more than one place,” she said.
And McFadden is ready to give local officers whatever they need to fight crime.
“We want to win this battle,” he said. “I hate to say this but if they have a cannon, I want a cannon for my police officers too. The advantage needs to be to those who uphold the law not those who break the laws.”