As Baltimore tackles yet another deadly year of homicides, several law enforcement and city officials spoke at National Night Out on Tuesday about the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with the affected communities.
At the Mondawmin Mall, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was joined by city, state and federal officials as they shook hands and spoke with residents during the national event, created to promote positive relationships between police departments and the jurisdictions they serve.
“It’s really measuring how we carry this night on and scale this from one night a year to every night a year,” Harrison said.
In the parking lot of the mall, the smell of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers wafted through the air as residents chatted with representatives of various city departments that had set up tables at the event.
Celebrated throughout the country, including at dozens of other sites in the Baltimore area, the event is largely a light affair, akin to a community cookout or party at which police officers mix with residents to eat and to discuss their neighborhoods.
Before Harrison and others dignitaries arrived, a police helicopter briefly hovered over the mall before speeding away to the sound of sirens.
And while Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Harrison posed for photos with residents, when talking to reporters about crime in the city, the discussion ultimately came back to what city and law enforcement officials are doing to actively address the issue.
Young said the city has recently put together apprenticeship programs and pointed to the newly created Baltimore Office of Children & Family Success, which Young said will look for “holistic” approaches to helping families in the city.
“So we’re doing a number of things. We just need you guys to start talking about them,” Young said.
In response to a question about how City Council is handling crime — Baltimore suffered its 200th homicide over the weekend — Council President Brandon Scott said it’s an issue on every member’s mind in every district and one the council continues to try to tackle through new initiatives and the budget process.
“Council people are in their districts every day dealing with the issues, dealing with illegal dumping, dealing with the crime issues,” Scott said.