Yesterday's dual city council meetings were both yawners; the new budget passed with only Councilman Carl Stokes voting "nay," as usual. ("Too few dollars for youth opportunities, too many dollars for law enforcement," he said afterward. "I've never voted for a budget.") But, nestled discretely among the $36 million in "supplementary general fund appropriations" to the Department of Transportation to cover unforeseen contingencies such as the 26th street landslide and Winter, there were two minor items that made news: a supplementary $1,239,800 for the police "to provide new crime fighting initiatives," and $950,800 for the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. Here's how the Sun played it big, with the headline, "City Council approves CeaseFire, police funding in $2.2 million crime fighting proposal." The showing owes, no doubt, to the press conference Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake staged immediately after the council's 5 p.m. session. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was there too, as the Sun and others reported, touting the new initiative:
CeaseFire is a concept that crime scholar David Kennedy devised more than 15 years ago to target—wait for it—violent repeat offenders. Studying crime patterns in Boston, Kennedy concluded that just a tiny percentage of criminals, who had been arrested on average about 10 times before, accounted for the vast bulk of murders. Bring them in, read them the riot act and—crucially—give them a straight-and-narrow option to get out of crime, and they stop killing so much, Kennedy found. The concept still impressed last night, as Mayor SRB said: "This data demonstrates that our crime-fighting strategy focused on the most violent repeat offenders is the right strategy," Rawlings-Blake said. That could be very true. But also: CeaseFire-type programs have been tried, and abandoned, and revived in Baltimore so many times this past decade, we lost count. Consider reporter Anna Ditkoff's
of Jessamy's 2006 press release awkwardly announcing a criminal "call-in" for the then-dormant program, called Operation Safe Neighborhoods:
How this particular $2 million is expected to move the needle in a city with a $429 million police (and $35 million State's Attorney) budget would be an interesting case study. The whole nut is less than one-tenth of what the police department routinely spent on overtime in some recent years. Not to worry, though. The FI 2014 budget included $300,000 for "a comprehensive external study of overtime budgets."