At the end of the following week, the commissioner addressed hundreds of men as they prepared take part in an anti-violence march along North Avenue. His speech was as much a defense of himself as it was a condemnation of the shootings.
"I've dedicated 30 years of my life to saving lives. This is what I do," Batts told the crowd, his tone rising. He spoke of people being shot in the head and "having their guts ripped out." This is not a game, he said.
"I get so tired when the media comes to me and says, 'Commissioner, what about this number. Commissioner, what about that number.' You know what goes through my mind? Those faces that I have seen as I walk the streets of Baltimore, as I walk the alleys, as I talk to them like when I was out last night at 3 in the morning and I see kids on the street."
He continued: "This is not about numbers to me. This is about young women, young men who are dying on these streets. Not just in Baltimore, but in Chicago, in Detroit, in Philadelphia, in Oakland, in Long Beach. There's just too many black faces dying on the streets of America as a whole."
Rawlings-Blake said she supports Batts' crime-fighting strategies, and believes he has taken the right approach to Baltimore policing in his first year here.
"I have confidence in Commissioner Batts, because of his emphasis in putting more feet on the street and building the much-needed relationships in our community," Rawlings-Blake said. "I'm proud of his emphasis of getting in the community and making sure everyone understands it's not them against us, which is for far too long what people felt."
Police note that the number of shooting incidents is about the same as last year, but more people have been struck. Multiple-victim shootings have increased from 14 at this time last year to 33.
City Councilman Warren Branch noted that homicides were up across the country last year, particularly in cities the same size as Baltimore. He said Batts has been communicating regularly with him and other council members, and said that goes a long way toward building confidence in the commissioner.
"We can't predict when the next shooting or homicide is going to take place, but I feel very comfortable with him," said Branch, an East Baltimore councilman who chairs the Public Safety Committee.
Batts also insists that "close to 90 percent" of the city's violence "is gang member-on-gang member, drug dealer-on-drug dealer," a claim City Council members have increasingly been repeating.
Internal data lists known gang or drug motives for 65 of the 167 homicides that have occurred this year, while officials note that 75 percent of homicide victims have at least one drug arrest.
Sixteen killings involved children or domestic violence.
"Very rarely do you have normal citizens that are not introduced into criminality getting impacted by the violence in the city," Batts said. "Any loss of humanity is a significant loss, but most likely the good citizens here are not going to be impacted by that level of violence."
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young has said that there may be too much talk about gangs.
"The commissioner is trying his best to get a handle on what's going on. He seems to think it's all gangs," Young said. "I think we give them too much credit."
Batts said some changes have come more easily than others. Some criticized his move to bring in consultants at a cost of $285,000, saying the city reached outside the department in hiring him for that very reason. Their broad assessment of agency operations is still not completed.
He also lamented a slow internal discipline process, but said changes are difficult due to state laws protecting officers' rights, he said.
"Nothing moves fast in Baltimore," he said with a smile.
But Batts seems primarily focused on attrition, which he believes is hampering the agency's ability to properly implement its anti-crime strategy.
Rawlings-Blake said she hopes to emerge from negotiations with the police union with better pay for officers.