BALTIMORE — Aiming to deal with gun violence as a public well being disaster, Baltimore’s mayor on Friday unveiled a five-year violence discount plan for the U.S. metropolis the place violent crime charges have remained excessive since a 2015 surge.
Mayor Brandon Scott, who took workplace in December, mentioned the plan goals to finish the town’s foundering efforts to deal with its prime downside. He asserted that Baltimore — which has had 4 mayors and 5 police commissioners over the previous six years alone — had by no means earlier than developed a multiyear technique to stem violence, as a substitute lurching from yr to yr with disparate approaches.
Now, Baltimore is touting an all-hands-on-deck technique, beefing up investments in violence intervention applications comparable to Protected Streets, rising neighborhood engagement and placing a renewed give attention to diminishing unlawful weapons. Total, the plan goals to cut back gun violence by 15% per yr.
“We perceive that no single coverage or initiative serves as a cure-all for the lengthy legacy of violence Baltimore has endured. There is no silver bullet. Nonetheless, I consider wholeheartedly that this transformative method can transfer the needle and make each neighborhood in Baltimore a safer place to dwell,” Scott mentioned exterior a neighborhood middle.
Gun violence charges have remained excessive in Baltimore because the 2015 loss of life of Freddie Grey, a younger Black man who suffered a deadly damage in police custody. His loss of life triggered large protests and the town’s worst riots in many years.
Maryland’s largest metropolis has recorded greater than 300 annual homicides for six years in a row. Thus far this yr, it has recorded 192 homicides, in contrast with 183 throughout the identical interval final yr. There’s been almost 400 nonfatal shootings to date in 2021.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison mentioned the brand new plan combines “efficient policing” with different approaches to strengthen neighborhood relationships and construct again belief. Since 2017, Baltimore has been below federal oversight after the U.S. Justice Division found longstanding patterns of extreme drive, illegal arrests and discriminatory police practices.
Regulation enforcement alone can not successfully cut back violent crime, the police commissioner mentioned.
“That is about breaking the cycle and tradition of violence in our metropolis, quite than the only real reliance on utilizing police deployment alone,” Harrison mentioned Friday as officers tried to drum up enthusiasm for the brand new plan at a sequence of occasions within the crime-weary metropolis.
How the violence prevention plan’s numerous efforts will truly mesh with prosecutors, police and neighborhoods stays to be seen. However some specialists mentioned taking a complete method to gun violence and framing it as a public well being downside is probably going the best solution to go.
“Whereas it acknowledges the significance of truthful and efficient legislation enforcement, it clearly lays out that public security isn’t and may’t be only a policing difficulty. These are necessary variations from among the approaches previously and have the potential to result in actual change,” mentioned Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director for the Johns Hopkins Heart for Gun Violence Prevention and Coverage on the Bloomberg Faculty of Public Well being.
Town’s prime prosecutor, State’s Lawyer Marilyn Mosby, mentioned Friday that there’s now a “unified method” to combating violent crime in Baltimore.
“We all know we can not merely arrest and incarcerate our means out of the violence,” she mentioned.
Scott’s plan describes one tactic generally known as “group violence discount technique” that officers consider might be efficient whether it is sustained. Underneath this focused technique, legislation enforcement goals to forestall violence by figuring out individuals who is likely to be able to turn into shooters or victims and providing them assist, comparable to work alternatives or substance abuse remedy.
Scott has additionally directed metropolis police to ascertain a Firearms Intelligence Unit, which is able to examine straw purchases and stem the circulation of unlawful weapons onto the streets. The unit will collaborate with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives brokers.
The plan requires a reentry community to higher present companies to individuals returning dwelling from jail. And it touts the institution of “neighborhood policing plans” so police can attempt to handle quality-of-life points and different challenges recognized by residents. It is unclear how this may truly work in a metropolis with giant swaths of deeply disenfranchised neighborhoods and 1000’s of uninhabitable residential properties with boarded-up home windows.
A core a part of the plan goals to spice up violence intervention applications that target mediating battle and offering socials companies with federal funding. This would come with among the metropolis’s $640 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden’s sweeping COVID-19 aid bundle.
“Many of those applications have suffered from inadequate or inconsistent funding which might result in inconsistent effectiveness. It’s necessary that these applications have enough and sustained funding for them to work,” Crifasi mentioned in an e-mail.