Life imitating art
Nonstop violence as Baltimore nears record homicide rate
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who was tapped this year to fix a dispirited department and regain residents’ trust, unveiled a five-year crime-fighting plan in July, that includes a goal of responding to calls within 10 minutes and prioritizing those threatening life or property. The plan also contains recruitment strategies, community engagement efforts and accountability measures. But the department lacks the personnel and resources to achieve all the goals, and Harrison has acknowledged that the city’s deep-rooted “gun culture” also must be changed.
“People can expect that number to go down, we are building capacity, but we need to have some type of effect on the poverty, the housing, the education, the addiction, the skills, the jobs and the lack thereof, together at the same time,” Harrison told The Associated Press. “All of that has to be addressed while prosecuting people who commit crimes and preventing other people from committing those crimes. Otherwise, it continues and then you ask the question, ‘When does it stop?’ without fixing the reason it starts.”
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and members of the state’s congressional delegation announced additional resources to help Harrison and federal law enforcement in Maryland track guns, hire additional police officers and beef up task forces. Harrison, in a reversal, agreed to allow three surveillance airplanes to fly above the city for up to six months as part of a pilot program.
Law enforcement experts, however, warn it would be unfair to assume that law enforcement alone will reduce violent crime.
“Let’s not assume simply that by putting more officers, this is going to lead to greater closure of cases or will be a deterrent,” Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore. “It may help families, it may put behind bars some more bad guys, but it doesn’t mean it necessarily leads to a decrease in crime and homicides.”