With killings rising in Baltimore, mayor 'examining' decrease in arrests

Mayor: "Every time there's been a surge in violence before, we've been able to get on top of it."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday she and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts are "examining" whether a sharp decrease in arrests is contributing to May becoming the deadliest month in Baltimore since the 1990s.

Through the first half of May, police made 828 arrests — fewer than half the 1909 made during the same time last year. This month, 36 people have been killed in Baltimore, the highest total for a month since 1999.

Batts has said police are struggling to stop violence in West Baltimore, where officers have been routinely surrounded by dozens of people, video cameras and hostility while performing basic police work since the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Six officers are charged criminally in Gray's death. Some police officers have said they feel hesitant on the job under intense public scrutiny.

The mayor said Wednesday "a lot of reasons" are contributing to the crime spike, but she believed Batts would get it under control.

"Every time there’s been a surge in violence before, we’ve been able to get on top of it and bring crime down," Rawlings-Blake said. "I’m confident we’re going to do that again."

At the same time, the highest-ranking remaining member of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice has submitted her resignation. Three others have left the office as Baltimore endures a rash of homicides and other violence following last month's rioting and unrest.

Rawlings-Blake said she wanted to see improved performance out of the office.

"We have an opportunity to be dynamic and comprehensive in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice," she said. "I would like to see it be faster and be a real leader in the community when it comes to the coordinated efforts that we have when it comes to criminal justice. I’m confident that we’re going to get there."

City Councilman Brandon Scott said he was not overly concerned about the drop in arrests.

“Arrests being down by themselves does not necessarily trigger an alarm for me,” he said. “If you look at the history of Baltimore, some years when we had extremenly high numbers of arrests, we had extreme number of homicides as well. If you look at 2011 and the record-low homicides, arrests were down.”

 Scott said he was concerned, however, that some might call for a return of the high arrest numbers under former Mayor Martin O’Malley. 

“I don’t want anyone to start to think we need to go back to mass arrests,” he said. “We need to continue to stay focused on violent repeat offenders.”

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

 

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