O'Malley and the George Bush "Mini-Me"
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley on Saturday dismissed as "politically motivated" a recently disclosed grant by the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to a University of Maryland researcher to determine whether Baltimore and several other jurisdictions are correctly reporting crime stats.
"It would appear to be a very thinly veiled attempt by the governor to mask his innuendo with an academic," said O'Malley, a Democrat running for governor.
His assessment came following an appearance before about 150 campaign volunteers in Prince George's that included several other swings at Ehrlich -- including calling him "the George Bush Mini-Me of Maryland."
The issue of crime stats was also the subject Saturday of a Baltimore Sun story about an O'Malley-commissioned audit of violent crime numbers from 1999, the last year of his predecessor's administration. The crime count was adjusted upward that year, from 15,251 to 18,735, as a result of the audit, which was conducted with the help of the FBI.
The higher count has allowed O'Malley to claim on the campaign trail--as he did just yesterday at a rally in Prince George's County--that violent crime has dropped more rapidly in Baltimore than any other of the nation's largest 25 cities. Based on the unaudited figure, violent crime would have declined nearly 24 percent between 1999 and 2004, rather than the roughly 37 percent that O'Malley cites.
Campaign aides to Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, O'Malley's Democratic primary rival, were quick to point to the Sun story, which also recounted some more recent statistical glitches. Duncan aides said it provided evidence of "fuzzy math" on the mayor's part. Duncan, who lags behind O'Malley in the polls, is set to unveil a crime plan Monday that will include a call for a statewide crime audit-- a not-so-subtle suggestion that something is amiss with Baltimore's current numbers.
O'Malley said the city's crime figures have been subject to several internal audits in recent years. And he said he would be open to an outside audit of more recent crime counts "if it could be done promptly and professionally..., it might be a good move," O'Malley said. But, he added, "whatever we initiate ourselves, our critics will say is part of the conspiracy and cover-up."
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