Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts recently provided an in-depth look at city crime and what police are doing to curb the recent uptick in city violence when he held a meeting with concerned citizens and community leaders that was broadcast on the Internet.
The meeting was an unprecedented move for a department that often has refused to provide even basic information on crime and enforcement tactics. Batts opened the doors of Comstat, a weekly, data-driven crime statistics meeting, and detailed the recent shootings directly related to gangs and the drug trade gripping the city.
Similar information-sharing meetings were suspended a few years ago when police officials claimed the gatherings, which are used by law enforcement agencies around the country, were not producing results. Since then, the meetings had been limited to police officials.
Careful not to disclose information about specific suspects and victims, Batts, who took office roughly two months ago, allowed residents and community leaders in to update them on problems that have driven the number of homicides over 200. As of Dec. 4, 202 homicides had been reported in the city. In 2011, the city reported 197 murders, down from 223 in 2010 when Baltimore was listed as number eight on the FBI’s list of top 25 dangerous cities.
“I’m sharing a lot of information for a reason,” said Batts. “I want the community to [be] educated on what’s going on in their city and how we’re addressing that.”
The meeting came just days after police added 16-year-old Daniel Pearson to the list of Baltimore homicide victims. He was killed on Nov. 20 in the 2700 block of Greenmount Avenue in the city’s Greenmount community, one of its most crime plagued. Adonay Garcia-Wilson, 22, was fatally shot near midday in the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue on Nov. 21. Another 16-year old, whose name was not released, was fatally shot on Nov. 25 in the 2200 block of Barclay Street, situated just off Greenmount Avenue.
Batts attributed the uptick in homicides to drugs and gangs, including the Tree Top Pirus and the Black Gorilla Family.
“As [the] Black Gorrilla Family expands through our city they are starting to franchise,” he said.
Angela Holland, whose son, Jeremy Isaac, 22, was shot to death inside the Waverly
Towers shopping center located off Greenmount Avenue on Feb. 13, said the recent violence has made her Harwood neighborhood a ghost town. Extra police are now detailed near her home.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “It’s been dead around here. The business that usually goes on in the street has stopped.”
Batts said drugs and territory disputes related to the drug trade are often connected to the violence. Batts pointed to heroin, which he said comes into Baltimore from as far away as Afghanistan by way of Nigerian flights into local airports.
“Heroin is number one and pharmaceuticals that have the same opiate base as heroin are number two,” he said. “We have cocaine and then we have marijuana as number four.”
Police have beefed up their street presence and employed other tactics to break down gang operations.
Batts said he is holding administrators accountable. Officials, including directors from of the nine police districts, are expected to report on their efforts to impact violent crimes.
“We’ve got foot people up and down Greenmount Avenue,” said Captain Richard Worley of the Northern District. “We have eight foot-people, four of them are right along Greenmount and Boone and our operations unit is entrenched in the Greenmount corridor.”
Officers have been redeployed from desk duty to street patrol and district commanders have begun to work closer with each other, sharing information to identify criminals who are operating on the borders of districts and throughout different neighborhoods.