During the recent Federal Hill South Neighborhood Association meeting on Tuesday, September 24th, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts discussed citywide violence issues, in addition to local South Baltimore issues, which SouthBMore.com covered here. Batts told attendees that a spike in shootings and homicides this year is in large part due to two high-profile gangs based mostly in East and West Baltimore. To combat this problem, a gang intelligence unit is being developed in Baltimore City, with the help of the State of Maryland.
Whether gang related or not, a staggering amount of Baltimore’s homicide victims and suspects involved individuals with criminal records.
· 84.4% of the victims in 2013 have a criminal record; 79% of them involved in a drug arrest
· 86% of the suspects have a criminal record; 73% of them involved prior drug arrests
Though most categories of crime are down in 2013 including robberies, rape, petty theft and total violent crime, shootings are up 20% and homicides have risen 6%. Gang-related violence and multi-victim incidents were attributed to the rise.
In addition to increasing gang intelligence, Commissioner Batts also spoke of tactics to stay ahead of criminal activity, increased traffic enforcement to prevent the trafficking of guns across the city, and shorter investigation times, referring to 30-day investigations to prosecute violent criminals.
Batts said the department is also looking to implement Ceasefire in Baltimore City, a violence-stopping technique employed by Boston in the mid-90s, as well as by many other cities throughout the world. Using this technique, young offenders, gang members, etc. are brought to an intervention-type meeting to see the impact of violence on their families, relatives and victims of such incidents. Non-attendance could result in arrests. Batts said that Ceasefire Creator David Kennedy of John Jay College will be coming to Baltimore to help them start the program.
Batts also said he wanted to see Baltimore’s Padlock Law, one that allows police to close the doors on problem businesses and bars, strengthened. He noted the effectiveness of this law in reducing crime in nearby areas such as Washington, DC and Prince George’s County.
Batts additionally discussed technological improvements including giving iPads to police officers who are currently without computers in their cars; improving the response time with their 911 call system; and making improvements to the 311 system.