Yes, you read that headline correctly. After 212 homicides in Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh unveiled her crime reduction plan. What has taken so long? It’s not as if this problem just sprung up. In 2015, Baltimore set a new record for homicides at 344. Unfortunately, the City of Baltimore might challenge that record in 2017.
On August 9, 2017, Mayor Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis have decided to release their long awaited plan. If you remember, Davis ended plainclothes assignments in March 2017, and I can’t wait to see how they further destroy any chance of saving Baltimoreans. Any more plans like that and you might as well close up shop. The plan is tangential and lacks any specifics. I imagine that was intended.
The Mayor of Baltimore and the City Council make no indication that they must reduce crime immediately in order to bring businesses in. If they can’t do that, part two and three of their plan are all fluff. Hiring new officers and providing the necessary training is great, however, it takes a long time to see those benefits. The time to act is now.
Below, you will find some ideas in no particular order that I think may prove the chances of saving lives in Baltimore. It is not a complete nor inclusive list since it doesn’t cover investigative strategies. I will address those in another post.
What Specifics Should the Plan Include?
Rearrange the Internal Affairs Division/Bureau
Besides the obvious crime, the Baltimore Police Department has some serious internal issues that must be dealt with. Several recent high-profile misconduct cases have rocked an already fragile psyche driving morale even lower. Disinterested cops or those acting strictly upon self-preservation, do not make for good crime fighters. A Department willing to fix itself, change the culture, will do well at building bridges with the community.
Do you want to know how proactive your local police department is? Look no further than gun arrests. On page 9 of the report, it states that gun arrests are up 17% from 2015, but from what year? The weapon of choice in Baltimore is the firearm. Firearm suppression teams, tracking firearms and ballistics from crime scenes and undercover operations should be the focus of the plan. Most of this will be hard to do since there are no more plainclothes cops. There is, however, a caveat to this part of the plan. A chance of an officer involved shooting is very high. Does this current leadership have the stomach for that? I would say no at this juncture.
Prosecute firearm cases as if Baltimore is experiencing record homicides – since they are. No plea bargains, no reduced sentences, no breaks. It’s no big secret that the State Attorney and the cops aren’t friends. When practical, go federal. If not, you will continue to see the same cycle of violence.
Federal Gang Task Forces
Expand the use of federal agents in a collaborative effort. Not much can strike fear in most gang members, however, federal prosecutions usually do the trick. It’s happening right now on Long Island, where federal agents and Suffolk County police have arrested over 100 suspected MS 13 Gang Members. Those arrests lead to additional intelligence leading to clearing seventeen (17) murders.
Crime Stoppers Program
The police need the public’s help in solving many crimes. Crime Stoppers programs allow callers to remain anonymous and may help spur some intel on current cases. Reward flyers with a single tip line phone number should be wall papered everywhere. The department should reach out to any companies with unused billboards and ask them to temporarily display the tip line.
Warrants are low hanging fruit, but a good place to start with violence reduction. Don’t waste time and personnel on traffic summonses. Individuals wanted on bench warrants (failure to show) for domestic violence, serious assaults, weapons possession, etc., should be given priority.
I’m not a fan of CompStat when it is wielded as a form of intimidation, bullying or embarrassment. Unfortunately, that happens quite often in police boardrooms all over the nation. I outline many of the problems I saw with CompStat in a USA Today Op-Ed. When used as a support tool, CompStat can significantly reduce crime, save lives and prevent further victimization.
Far From the End of the Story
Proactive policing works. Over the past few years, the phrase has labeled with a bad connotation. It won’t be easy. There will be a series of growing pains. Along they way, there will be mistakes, setbacks, and examples of bad policing. They will happen, but with a strong Internal Affairs Division, some of those issues could be mitigated. The focus should be on reducing the further chance of victimization.