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Crime

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends National Night Out in West Baltimore

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland made an appearance in West Baltimore on Tuesday night for National Night Out, a yearly nationwide event meant to strengthen relationships between residents and police.

Garland talked with community members at Wilson & Etting Park in Upton but did not take reporters’ questions. Police officers mingled with young people, who played basketball and jumped rope while snacking on fresh-cut fruit and food truck nachos at the event organized by Central West Baltimore advocacy group No Boundaries Coalition. Garland later continued his visit at a Western District block party in Sandtown-Winchester. During that event, Baltimore firefighters sprayed jubilant kids with water while a D.J. played Drake songs.

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Baltimore has been under a federal consent decree for the past five years, after a 2016 Department of Justice investigation initiated after the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody found that the Baltimore Police Department had displayed a pattern of violating residents’ constitutional rights.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has struggled to prosecute cases where witnesses or victims are uncooperative, an obstacle she attributed to “the ‘stop snitching’ culture” in a 2021 letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Over the past four years, witnesses or victims failing to appear in court accounted for about 26% of cases that became inactive or in which charges were dropped, according to data from Mosby’s office.

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Homicides have remained above 300 per year since 2015, with 215 recorded so far this year.

After taking part in a volleyball game, Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference Tuesday where he was joined by local and federal law enforcement that community engagement was key to making Baltimore safer.

“It takes a genuine community effort from all of us to take responsibility for what is happening in our neighborhoods and change things for the better,” Scott said. “Together, with mutual respect and compassion, we can strengthen our neighborhoods and pave the way towards a Baltimore where everyone feels safe and protected regardless of race, ethnicity or ZIP code.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox said in an interview at the Upton event that city officials have not done enough to address bloodshed in Baltimore.

“You have a state’s attorney and a mayor who is blaming the police instead of making sure that the police are protected,” Cox said. “If they simply show up to do something and someone falsely accuses them, all of a sudden now that officer is put on leave, you don’t have the leadership of this town backing up what they need to.”

Cox called the consent decree necessary, but said Scott has not provided police with appropriate resources to address crime.

“The mayor has not taken any action to make sure the police are empowered to do their mission. Instead, there’s a lot of talk about needing to have equity,” Cox said. “Well, people need equity for sure. It’s called safe streets.”


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