SALISBURY — For the third consecutive year, Salisbury is receiving state funding for its Safe Streets Coalition. According to state and city officials, that money is making a noticeable impact.
“It [Salisbury] is a very different place today … than two and a half years ago,” said Kristen Mahoney, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP).
Mahoney was on hand to deliver a check for $324,623 to city officials at a special event Wednesday.
“It is an amazing story of progress,” she said of Salisbury’s history with the GOCCP.
Mahoney explained that Gov. Martin O’Malley had taken a personal interest in Salisbury three years ago when he noticed disproportionately high crime rates for such a small city. He instructed Mahoney to work with the city and the county to brainstorm solutions. That effort resulted in the current Safe Streets initiative, one of only two in Maryland, the other being in Annapolis.
“We talked about what was not happening,” said Mahoney.
She felt that the biggest issue was a lack of information sharing between departments and agencies, a problem that Mahoney says was quickly addressed.
“We started truly sharing information about them [criminals],” she said.
Over the last three years, the state has provided $808,138 in funds for the Safe Streets program. According to Mahoney, that money is used to help link the police, the State’s Attorney’s Office, and the community together to better understand and reduce crime within the city. After nearly a million dollars, she says the results are dramatic, with crime rates steadily dropping.
“The Salisbury Safe Streets Program is a much-needed partnership to reduce crime in our communities,” said O’Malley. “These funds will help increase information sharing and provide local law enforcement with the tools they need to create safer neighborhoods. Together, with our local and federal partners, we can continue to protect our most solemn obligation: the public’s safety.”
Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton agreed and pointed out that the results seen by Salisbury already are impressive.
“Today, our data shows that since the inception of Safe Streets, our Part 1 crimes are down 35 percent,” he said. “For the first half of 2011, the city has recorded fewer Part 1 violent crimes than in any time during the first six months of the last 10 years.”
Additionally, Ireton mentioned that neighborhoods like Church Street have had violent crime reduced by 30 percent, and thefts in Camden have gone down 57 percent. Part 1 crimes also dropped 20 percent in the Smith Street and Newton Street area while Part 2, quality of life offences, plummeted 53 percent in the same location.
“This is the concrete progress that our citizens and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention are proud of … This, Salisbury, is Safer Streets,” he said.
The money provided this year will go toward paying law enforcement overtime, a crime data analyst, a community prosecutor and for the alarm system of a New Neighborhood Service Center, among other things.
Like Mahoney, Ireton acknowledged that Safe Streets epitomized a “group effort.” He thanked both the state and local partners, crediting them all with where the program is today. Ireton did give special attention to Delegates Norm Conway and Rudy Cane, both of whom were in attendance at the event Wednesday.
“We appreciate that hard work,” he told the delegates. “We have forged so many incredible relationships with our state partners … These relationships help us move our city forward, and we must be vigilant that those in the community whose answer and vote is increasingly ‘no’ are watched carefully.”
Ireton gave credit to the police as well, calling them a “rejuvenated and reborn” department.
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello also expressed his appreciation of the state’s involvement.
“This affords tremendous resources for crime-fighting in Salisbury…It’s a tremendous, tremendous benefit to law enforcement,” he said.
Maciarello explained that the funding received through Safe Streets allowed him to basically assign one of his prosecutors full time to the program.
“We’re doing everything we can to make you safe,” he said.
Ireton ended the event by urging members of the City Council to vote in favor of Safe Streets programs.
“Today is an incredible day for our citizens, for this police department, and for our coalition … We are ready to move forward,” he said.
He asked the council to concentrate on the benefits of the initiative, what it has already accomplished, and its potential. Ireton also took the opportunity to congratulate Dr. Mark Bowen on being appointed Safe Streets Coordinator. Bowen, who has had an extensive history both in education and law-enforcement, promised to keep the program heading in its current direction and agreed with his fellow officials that Salisbury is a different place now than it was only three years ago.