Mayor Pugh says Baltimore's crime situation showing improvement after she launched new initiative

Less than a month after declaring crime in the city "out of control," Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said an initiative she launched is driving down violence in five targeted neighborhoods.

“I think we’re trending in the right direction,” Pugh said Wednesday during a news conference at City Hall.

Officials have steered resources not just from the Police Department but also the fire, transportation, parks and health departments toward the five neighborhoods in East, West and Northwest Baltimore. Pugh has ordered 30 agency heads to meet at police headquarters each morning to coordinate their efforts.

The mayor’s team says homicides in the five neighborhoods have fallen from 1.5 per week to 1 per week since Oct. 30, a drop of 33 percent. Nonfatal shootings are down from 3.1 per week to 1.4 per week, a drop of 55 percent.

Officials compared the period since they launched the new effort to the 10 previous weeks. Crime has declined across the city during the same time, but Drew Vetter, the mayor’s top aide on crime, said the declines have been faster in the areas that officials have targeted.

Officials did not provide the underlying data they said they relied on to conduct their analysis.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said the early successes will give officials momentum heading into 2018.

“Being able to pause and recognize the momentum and the crime reductions that are being accomplished across the board is something that we find very encouraging,” he said.

It’s not clear that trends reflected in the city’s data have helped people feel any safer in their communities. Council members who represent some of the targeted areas said they had not noticed a change in attitudes among constituents.

“I can't say folks have seen some sort of dramatic change,” said Councilman John Bullock, who represents much of West Baltimore. “I know the perception may not be the same as the figures.”

Councilman Robert Stokes, whose district covers a large part of East Baltimore, said people he hears from still feel unsafe. “It’s still dangerous,” he said.

Both councilmen said it was good city agencies were working more closely together, but Stokes cautioned that the effort would have to be sustained over the long term and built upon.

“You can’t just go in there and clean it up,” he said. “You’re just putting a patch on it. There’s got to be some follow-up.”

Wednesday was Pugh’s first anniversary in office. It was a year in which her agenda was largely overwhelmed by the level of violent crime in the city.

The mayor has faced criticism from many quarters for seeming to struggle to get a grip with crime. Gov. Larry Hogan has questioned whether Pugh really had a plan.

Hogan held his own event in Baltimore this week to lay out efforts the state will pursue, including increased state patrols in high-crime city neighborhoods, creating a cross-jurisdictional crime-fighting council and legislation that calls for longer sentences for violent criminals. None of Baltimore’s top government or law enforcement officials were present at the announcement Tuesday.

Pugh, asked Wednesday why she didn’t appear at the governor’s event, said that “there wasn’t anything new announced.”

She noted that she met with Hogan in July and requested much of the aid he is now planning to provide. She held up a folder that contained details of the meeting.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the governor,” Pugh said.

An earlier version misstated the percent drop in non-fatal shootings. The Sun regrets the error.

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