Baltimore police are teaming up with state and federal agencies on a three-year initiative to fight violent crime, gangs and the drug trade.
Tuesday marked the kickoff of the city’s participation in the National Public Safety Partnership, a federal crime-fighting program with the U.S. Justice Department.
“We all understand what has to be done now," said U.S Attorney Robert K. Hur at a press conference that same day. “We understand that cooperation is critical within the police department, federal prosecutors, federal agents and the State Attorney’s office."
Spearheaded by President Donald Trump in 2017, the National Public Safety Partnership provides an array of federal law enforcement resources to help cities reduce violent crime, specifically related to gun violence, gangs and drug trafficking. The collaboration will provide city police with access to new technology and crime analytics tools, training in new policing tactics and strategies, and an open door to federal law enforcement experts.
“This is about building capacity —training capacity, technological capacity, data analytics capacity, and human skill capacity,” Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said.
“What we have today that we didn’t have yesterday is the entire weight of the federal government,” Harrison added.
Baltimore was not eligible when the Justice Department first selected cities for the program back in 2017 because the city jail would not implement Trump administration immigrant enforcement due to a state policy. In June, Baltimore was selected to participate as one of ten cities in this year’s cohort. The three-year program is tailored for each participating city.
Homicides have declined in New Orleans, where Harrison formerly worked, since it joined the federal program in 2017. Last year, the city ended with the fewest homicides since the 1970s.
Harrison said he believed the collaboration is promising since “[New Orleans] had similar deficiencies that we do here, technology deficiencies and analytical deficiencies."
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The federal department that oversees the program also oversees the city’s policing consent decree, Harrison said. The Baltimore City Police department will work with the federal justice department “to make sure any crime fighting initiatives that are made understand we’re in a consent decree," Harrison said.
The federal partnership is separate from the collaborative effort seen in early July in which the Baltimore Police made 64 arrests in a three-day operation with state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We’re not only going to prosecute and incarcerate our way out of this problem,” Hur said, “we have to do other things in terms of treatment and city services.”
Along with technical and analytical resources, federal agents will also help assist with community engagement.
“It’s gonna take a whole entire government effort to change the culture here,” Hur said.
The public launch of the partnership followed Monday’s shooting at a methadone clinic in North Baltimore, where a veteran police officer was shot and an employee at the clinic was killed, along with the shooter.
“Gun violence was certainly on the minds of many of us yesterday morning," said Hur. “We want nothing more to bring peace to our neighborhoods.”