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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

Baltimore Police look to Chicago for crime-fighting insight

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and other top members of the agency have visited counterparts in Chicago to observe their crime-fighting strategy, the latest in a series of efforts to adopt law enforcement practices around the country.

Chicago since 2012 has led the U.S. in total homicides, though its 413 murders in 2013 were a five-decade low and the city’s per-capita murder rate is less than half that of Baltimore. 

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy hit back against skeptics in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times published Wednesday, saying his crime-reduction plans are working. To emphasize the point, he noted that Baltimore commanders have visited to observe.

“Baltimore is putting a lot of effort into replicating what we’re doing,” McCarthy told the paper.

McCarthy told the Sun-Times that Batts himself visited Chicago and sent commanders to observe a Compstat meeting, where commanders share and review data.

Batts, at a town hall forum at Frederick Douglass High School in West Baltimore last week, told the audience that Baltimore police move too slowly in sharing information, and said that he had sent commanders of the rank of major to observe how another city shares information.

Baltimore Police confirmed Wednesday that Chicago was the city Batts and the commanders visited.

McCarthy’s initiatives in Chicago are an extension of the Operation Ceasefire principles that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is bringing to Baltimore.

Ceasefire involves “call-ins” in which those identified as involved in violence are sat down and given opportunities to turn their lives around — and told they could face prosecution if they do not.

McCarthy told The Baltimore Sun last month, in an interview discussing Ceasefire, that he is taking those principles even further, adapting the call-in approach into its regular response to shootings.

“We had a murder last night, and today we’re working up all the players from these two or three particular gangs that are involved,” McCarthy said in February. “We'll be going to their residences and basically doing the same thing you do at the call-in — sitting down with their family members and saying, 'We don't want to see you in a body bag.’”

Through March 14, Chicago had 188 “shooting incidents,” of which less than half were gang-related. Over the same period from 2011 to 2013, there were 264, 343 and 267 shooting incidents, respectively, and about 60 percent each year were deemed gang-related.

Baltimore’s shootings have dropped too. After a torrid start to begin the year, killings in the city Tuesday were down 10 percent, compared with the same period last year.

In addition to bringing in Ceasefire, police and city officials have brought in researchers to redraw the Police Department’s violent crime zones and to form strategies for policing around public spaces such as Lexington Market.

“We are taking every step imaginable to reduce violent crime and homicides in our city,” Rawlings-Blake said in a newsletter sent to residents last week.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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