Baltimore's long battle with violent crime is about to get a little more scientific.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, top criminal justice researchers at the Johns Hopkins University and city leaders on Monday announced a partnership to apply the latest research to everyday policing. Police hope the "Baltimore Collaborative for Violence Prevention" will have an immediate impact on crime rates. Researchers hope it will "create opportunities to advance the science of violence prevention."
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, called it "sort of a service project" to answer a question that has been batted around for months: "How can Hopkins help Baltimore police in being most effective in combatting violent crime and doing it in a way that repairs the relationship in the community as well?"
Police have worked with the researchers — including Professor Sheldon Greenberg of the Johns Hopkins School of Education — to identify six projects to prioritize.
Those projects will focus on assessing the effectiveness of the "War Room" and "B-FED" initiatives launched by Baltimore police and federal law enforcement agencies last year to target violent repeat offenders and gun offenders; deterring illegal gun use and possession; enhancing foot patrols to improve community relations and reduce crime; increasing Baltimore's system for rewarding residents who provide tips to police; coordinating a summit between district commanders; and improving the Police Department's recruitment efforts.
The partnership has been funded for a year with $250,000 from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and $250,000 from the Abell Foundation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has committed another $250,000 for 2017.
"We all have to come together to look at this epidemic of violence" — including police, academics and the community — and that's what the new collaborative facilitates," said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey foundation.
"Clearly the uptick in violence is one of the issues that we care deeply about," McCarthy said. "Often victims of these acts of violence are young people, sometimes young parents. It affects children, it affects families, it affects communities — and those are all areas that the Casey Foundation focuses on. The communities across Baltimore are asking for new approaches and for help ending this epidemic."
Baltimore suffered 344 homicides last year. It was the city's most homicides per capita ever.
The new partnership will be informed with "insights of individuals closest to the problem of violence," according to the outline. Community and neighborhood organizations are to be consulted.
"While the goal will be to facilitate large reductions in violent crime, the means to that end must be acceptable to the individuals and communities most impacted by violence," the outline reads.
Webster said he is excited about the work in part because Davis has been so open to the idea of improving the department based on research.
"What I said was, 'We want to do this, but the ground rules are, we're going to produce the data, and even if you don't like it, you can't push it under the rug,'" Webster said. "And he said, 'Absolutely.' He did not bat an eye. He's not afraid of what the status is."
Davis said he wouldn't expect Webster to do anything other than give him "the good, the bad and the ugly," and he looks forward to learning from the data.
"I know without a shadow of a doubt that it will make us better in the crime fight and better our capacity to interact with the community," he said. "I love these types of partnerships."