Baltimore Trade-off

I’ve been following the situation in Baltimore since the death of Freddie Gray because my wife hails from that city. Here is what is happening now according to the Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore’s top law enforcement leaders say they are working closely together to fight crime — but the community should not expect a turnaround soon.

State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, in an exclusive joint interview with The Baltimore Sun, say they are overseeing crime-fighting in a different climate than six years ago, when the city experienced fewer than 200 homicides for the first time in decades. Both officials claimed those past gains were achieved using heavy-handed tactics that have been disavowed.

“There was a price to pay for” the drop below 200 homicides, a price “that manifested itself in April and May of 2015,” Davis said, referring to the uprising following the death of Freddie Gray. “I think the long view is that doing it the right way is doing it the hard way, and I think most Baltimoreans realize that the way forward is not always going to be easy.”

The article continues:

Baltimore is on track for more than 300 killings for the third consecutive year. Among the latest victims was a 15-year-old boy who was gunned down in the middle of the afternoon Tuesday, the third teenager killed this month. In addition to spiking crime, authorities have continued to grapple with scandals that have led to criminal charges against officers and the dropping of scores of court cases.

I’m not sure I understand what this means. Is there really a direct link between disavowing “heavy-handed tactics” and a more than 50% increase in the homicide rate? What exactly is the relationship here? Is everyone OK with the trade-off? In particular, are the families of the 100 marginal homicide victims copacetic? And what are those heavy-handed tactics anyway?

But let’s focus on the negatives:

Mosby cited zero-tolerance policing as a “failed strategy” that continued in Baltimore long after it was formally disavowed by the city’s leaders. “Those failed policies are what got us to the place we were at in the spring of 2015,” she said, referring to the unrest.

Davis noted that his agency is operating with about 500 fewer officers than a few years ago, when the city experienced several years of declines in gun violence. He said the police department at that time employed a strategy that won’t be duplicated.

“It was a geographic takeover strategy of neighborhoods, that cast nets over neighborhoods that happened to be overwhelmingly poor, overwhelmingly African-American, overwhelmingly impacted by all the failings of society. And they [celebrated] when they got to a certain artificial number of murders,” he said. “As if 200 murders is acceptable for a city of 600,000 people.”

I agree that 200 murders a year should not be seen as acceptable. But I would think that 300 murders a year should be viewed as quite a bit less acceptable.

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