The Baltimore Police Department has been selected as one of six cities to receive a federal grant to fund and evaluate gun suppression efforts, officials announced Wednesday.
The $300,000 Smart Policing Grant will be used to support the work of the department's Violent Crime Impact Section, a plainclothes deployment of officers focused in East, West and Northwest Baltimore, and the gun offender registry, which helps keep tabs on people convicted of gun offenses.
It will also fund an evaluation of the department's effectiveness in those areas, led by Daniel Webster of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. For a two-year period, Webster and a researcher will compare crime statistics and police strategies to provide a template for other cities.
"Reducing gun violence is our No. 1 public safety priority," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "With this additional support from our federal partners, we will continue to enhance our gun suppression strategies."
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who has used the term "bad guys with guns" to describe the targets of his policing strategy, said the blending of enforcement in targeted areas and the focus on individual gun offenders in Baltimore has been a "cultural change in the way that we police this city."
Baltimore has seen a significant drop in gun crime since many of the current strategies were begun. As of Oct. 6, 2007, there had been 768 total shootings in the city, including 234 killings. But as of Oct. 6 of this year, that number had dropped to 483 total shootings, with 163 killed.
While shootings continue to plummet, the homicide total has largely remained unchanged since a large drop in 2008. This year's number is tracking closely with the total from 2008 and 2009, and the city remains among the most violent in the country.
Webster's research will be used to provide an assessment of the Baltimore Police Department's strategies to help others carry out similar programs. He said that the gun offender registry, while an idea borrowed from New York City, has largely not been analyzed in either city.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who appeared at Wednesday's news conference announcing the grant, said that in tough economic times, "we have to do more with less. This grant is about smart policing and making sure your resources go where they can make a difference."