Standing at the center of the Moorish Tower at Druid Hill Park Reservoir in Baltimore, dozens of community leaders, city officials and concerned citizens stood to hear city leaders’ plans to reduce violent crime.
At a March 1 press conference, the city officials announced the kick-off to their Public Safety Town Hall Tour, which they said will give residents the chance to have candid one-on-one conversations with them regarding crime and the safety of the city.
“Our homicide rate is distressingly high,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “We have a plan to reduce it and it involves building better relationships with the community that we serve.”
Such a tour is long overdue, said west Baltimore resident Juanital Hall.
“I think they put an effective plan together that may work, but I’d like to see a little more of the detail because they are speaking generally,” Hall told the AFRO. “At this point the crime is a little scary, so I will be going to these meetings and listening in.”
Hall said she has lived in the Gwynns Falls Parkway corridor for nearly 30 years and said she is concerned because crime can easily spill over into her neighborhood.
“Actions speak louder than what they are telling me they can do,” she said. “I want to see police on the streets and in the communities more. I grew up seeing police in the area making their presence known—which is why I think crime is running rampant now because we don’t have or see that.”
Increasing police presence and making officers visible at all times will be key to reducing the violent crime rate, said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.
“It’s about making decisions before violence takes place,” Batts said. “We are a city that is becoming safer, we will do a better job and we will become safer as we move forward, but the only way that is going to happen to the degree that the mayor wants and the citizens want is we have to have that partnership.”
The mayor said that the forums over the next two months will present opportunities for the residents to speak and hear directly from her and Batts. She said they will partner with social organizations, civic groups, faith leaders, community leaders and community associations to build a safer city.
“We want to build a robust dialogue in every community about our city,” said Rawlings-Blake.
Throughout the day of the press conference, elected officials and community leaders canvassed the west Baltimore neighborhood to make their presence known to residents.
“Residents are glad someone is willing to be at the table to hear us and will come up with a plan that will help the quality of life, help us all feel better and feel safer in communities,” said Inez Rob, president of the Western district police council. “We’ve got to iron out this perception of the city.”
Since the beginning of the year, the number of targeted police enforcement zones throughout the city has increased from four to 17. Rawlings-Blake said police must have better intelligence to locate the criminals, and that officers are conducting search warrants and undercover stings to arrest criminals before they commit another violent crime.
“We work for the city of Baltimore, the residents are our bosses and our responsibility is to listen,” said Batts. “It’s unacceptable that people don’t feel safe or have the perception of fear within this city. We will change that. We will address that. We will fix that. We stand ready to serve.”
The Public Safety Town Hall Tour will kick-off March 12 at Frederick Douglass High School, followed by nine public safety forums covering each of the city’s police districts. The tours are scheduled to run until June.
“We are going in the right direction. We are seeing positives and the plan that we put in place are appearing to work,” Batts told the AFRO. “As we deal with the crime fight and as we move forward as a city, were moving forward as a community unified with the police department going in the direction