‘Work has just begun’: Baltimore mayor, police commissioner tout increase of arrests
Overall arrests by Baltimore Police were up 10% for this year, compared to the same period last year, police data show
By Alex Mann
BALTIMORE — Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Wednesday touted a year-over-year increase in arrests, including those for gun crimes, as evidence that his administration’s approach to public safety is on the right track.
Scott, a Democrat, hosted a news conference Tuesday to speak about his multi-faceted plan to curtail relentless violence in the city, from freeing police officers to pursue those perpetuating violence to deploying resources to neighborhoods to prevent shootings and helping communities cope with trauma associated with them.
“It is clear that we are moving forward but that this work has just begun, because for me, one homicide, one shooting is one too many,” Scott told reporters. “You have my commitment as the mayor of Baltimore, and more importantly as a Baltimorean, a son of Baltimore, that we continue to push ourselves to improve and deepen this work.”
The mayor’s remarks come against the backdrop of a morbid reality for the city: For the eighth consecutive year, more than 300 people died by homicide in Baltimore, according to police.
As of Wednesday morning, there had been four fewer killings in 2022 — 322 — than the same date last year. Police on the same date reported 25 fewer nonfatal shootings than a year earlier.
Detectives had made fewer homicide arrests as of Saturday, Dec. 17, than they had on the same date last year. Police have arrested a suspect in 111 of the 321 killings recorded through Dec. 17, department data show.
But as of Saturday, overall arrests by Baltimore Police were up 10% for this year, compared to the same period last year, police data show. The bump in arrests appears to be driven by an approximately 22% increase in arrest warrants served through mid-December, year over year.
Comparing the same date year over year, arrests for gun offenses are up almost 20% in 2022. Baltimore Police had seized 300 more guns by Dec. 17 this year than they had on the same day a year earlier. A greater proportion of the guns seized by police this year compared to last — about 18% — were untraceable ghost guns.
Speaking alongside Scott at City Hall on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison applauded the arrest increases, which he said the department achieved through innovation, technology and maximizing resources in the face of a shortage of officers he numbered in the hundreds.
“All of this is happening with a greatly reduced workforce,” Harrison said. “Our progress in transforming the department is clear, but there are many challenges that still exist and we continue to face an uphill battle with staffing, concerning recruiting new hires and retaining experienced officers. Simply put, we do not have enough sworn officers to do everything we want to do all the time, exactly when we want.”
The police department is still under a federal consent decree imposed on the agency in the aftermath of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in the custody of city police officers.
At the same time, the department — and the city — continue to pay the price of the actions of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force, with the Baltimore spending board approving more settlements Wednesday morning stemming from the rogue officers trampling on residents’ constitutional rights. The city has now paid more than $16 million because of those officers’ actions.
Scott on Wednesday also spoke of progress on the non-enforcement prong of his administration’s push to reduce violence. He said the city’s violence interrupters mediated more than 2,000 conflicts across the city, crediting the workers for potentially saving lives in disputes that could’ve turned deadly.
Shantay Jackson, leader of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said her office had in the last year laid a strong foundation for mitigating violence and addressing traumatized communities, and that her team looked forward to building upon it in the next six months.
Seventy-one of the 81 people Jackson’s office offered services to, residents she described as being “at the highest risk of being shot or being the shooter,” accepted the help provided, she said.
Furthermore, her office doled out $26 million to community organizations working to prevent violence and intervene before disputes turn violent as well as efforts to assist citizens returning from incarceration.
“We know that more work lies ahead to increase and maintain sustainable outcomes for our communities and we know this work is not ever going to be done until we see zero homicides, zero nonfatal shootings and zero Baltimoreans who are impacted by the residual trauma that violence causes,” Jackson said at the news conference Wednesday morning.
About three hours after the news conference ended, a man was gunned down downtown, near the intersection of South Howard and West Baltimore streets.
He died at a hospital shortly thereafter, bring the city’s yearly homicide count to 323.
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