Duncan Rebukes O'Malley Over Crime

By John Wagner and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan traveled yesterday to the home turf of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, his rival for the Democratic nomination for governor, and accused him of "playing games" with city statistics to inflate his success fighting crime.

In a second event in Takoma Park later in the day, Duncan escalated the rhetoric, accusing O'Malley of "misrepresenting the facts" to make it appear that violent crime has decreased far more rapidly during his tenure than is the case.

In doing so, Duncan sought to undermine what O'Malley perceives to be his biggest accomplishment. Duncan's comments were notable both for their intensity and timing. Seven months remain before the primary, and candidates typically use this early campaign period to introduce themselves, leaving such personal attacks to surrogates and aides.

"I am accusing him of misrepresenting the facts," Duncan said. He said that only a statewide audit of crime numbers would put to rest concerns about O'Malley's figures, which some political foes in Baltimore also have questioned in recent years.

"Asking people to believe the numbers while they see the problems with their own eyes is not leadership," Duncan said.

O'Malley said Duncan's assertion was unfounded and called his conduct "not becoming" of a candidate for governor.

"He's so desperate not being able to get any traction out there in his campaign that, unfortunately, this is what he is resorting to," O'Malley said.

Duncan, who trails O'Malley in polling and fundraising, made his claims at a pair of events aimed at touting his own crime-fighting agenda. The centerpiece of Duncan's plan is a program of state grants to help localities hire 1,000 new police officers, the first 500 of them during his first year in office at a cost of $12.5 million.

Duncan said he also wants to increase drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, authorize the state police to help localities with carjacking and other problems and expand programs that help inmates reenter society. Duncan also said he would broaden state anti-racketeering laws to combat street gangs, an emerging problem in his county.

Talk of those initiatives was largely overshadowed, though, by the exchange with O'Malley over Baltimore crime statistics and Duncan's efforts to spotlight the city's continuing problems with crime.

"The good citizens of Baltimore were promised safety . . . and that promise has not been kept," Duncan said, noting that O'Malley had never met a goal he had embraced of lowering Baltimore's homicide count to 175. The city recorded 269 killings last year.

Duncan questioned the validity of an O'Malley-commissioned audit of violent crime numbers from 1999, the final year of Democrat Kurt L. Schmoke's tenure as mayor. Schmoke is supporting Duncan for governor.

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