Less than a week into the summer season, Baltimore has endured an unusual spike in crime which police said was primarily related to guns and gangs.
The city has seen 114 homicides this year, compared to 103 during the same period last year, and 190 non-fatal shootings compared to 171 in 2012. City officials said they are outraged with the increasing “spikes” of violence.
“I am angry, frustrated and saddened.” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a June 26 press conference. “This weekend was a terrible display of the of the ugly and senseless violence and we know that those who perpetrate those acts are cowards who disgrace our city.”
Councilmen Brandon Scott and Nick Mosby hosted an Oversight Hearing at City Hall June 26, during which Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and his team addressed the recent spate of crimes.
Police say they have created a strategic plan and are working hard to battle this issue.
“We have a master plan for Baltimore City,” Batts said. “We are taking this extremely serious as we strive for a safer Baltimore.”
Batts said the department will implement strategic deployment of officers on foot in historically violent areas in the eastern, western, northeastern and central districts, and will coordinate with federal and state partners.
“Gangs and guns are our issue. In reference to the Kenwood shootings, the neighborhood is full of gang members,” Batts said. “The neighborhood is full of Bloods, the Black Guerilla Family and the DJ boys who are starting to come in.”
City activists are also stepping up to help. On July 5, the Committed Organized & Responsible group will host a “300 Man March to End Violence” rally. Munir Bahar, the group’s director, said, “we plan to cover major drug infested areas and high crime neighborhoods.”
“This has not been done before, where the men come out and stand together,” Bahar said. “Men are sitting around while children are dying.”
But residents of the most affected areas questioned whether the police and community efforts would make a difference.
“I’ve been living here since 1999 and a lot of people are scared,” said Pedro Ortiz, who lives in the 700 block of N. Kenwood Ave. “We need someone to come around so we can feel all right.”
“This is a dramatic upturn of crime in a short amount of time,” Batts said. “This is a sense of urgency for me and the community. We cannot allow to have 20 of our residents shot during a two-day period, we can’t allow to have more 18-year-olds losing their lives. Those are dreams and aspirations lost.”
Police officials said the city as a whole saw decreases in crime in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and that crime in the city has been flat overall.
“We are working and going in the right direction. It’s just going to take time to get the right people in the right places,” Batts said. “This weekend was a little problematic, but we are adjusting to it.”
But as the city council hearing concluded, Baltimore Police dispatched officers to a shooting at the 700 block of Cherry Blossom Way in the city’s western district, where an adult male was shot in the arm—bringing non-fatal shootings this year to 191