Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous walk around West Baltimore and talk to residents. (Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun video)
With more than a murder a day in Baltimore thus far in August, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous took to the streets of West Baltimore on Friday night.
During a more than hour-long anti-violence walk, the politicians discussed ideas to bring down crime — including Jealous’ platform of creating gun courts to help increase conviction rates in gun crimes and providing more resources for crime prevention programs, such as Safe Streets.
With more than a week remaining in August, 26 people have been killed this month as of Friday.
Five people were shot Wednesday night, including two men who were killed. Police have not released their names. Five men were shot in the span of about five hours on Thursday.
Pugh emphasized that homicides are down from this time last year when the city experienced a record murder rate. The mayor has focused on addressing violence holistically, with all major city agencies meeting about crime reduction each morning.
Still, Baltimore has suffered from more than 300 homicides each of the last three years — and August has once again proved deadly.
“While we are trending downward in terms of violence in our city, we’re not down enough,” Pugh told a church group singing for peace on McCulloh Street. “Too many folks killing each other, too many illegal guns on the streets of our city. You all hear it, see it. We’ve got to do better by our communities.”
This year, only April and July saw more killings, 33 and 30 respectively, than August.
“You have too many teenagers out here who don’t have employment,” said Clarence Cowan, 69, of West Baltimore. “They don’t have enough recreational facilities. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If more resources were poured into the city, the crime rate would be greatly reduced and give kids hope for the future.”
Don Griffin, 47, of West Baltimore, said he’s sick of “everybody shooting everybody.”
“We’re the murder capital of the United States,” Griffin said. “You take somebody’s life? For what?”
The city has seen 190 homicides so far this year, almost as many as the 197 that were reported in all of 2011. But overall homicides are down about 17 percent and non-fatal shootings are down 8 percent from last year, which was the most violent year per capita in the city’s history.
Jealous said he would provide greater support for the city than incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has done.
“A governor needs to be doing what I’m doing right now,” Jealous said. “Coming out with the mayor, walking shoulder to shoulder, listening to residents, figuring out how we fix the problems. I’m not aware the governor has done that ever.”
“We should not be standing here in August with so much violence happening every day,” Jealous said.
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan’s campaign, said the governor has “spent many hours walking the streets of Baltimore.” Mayer said Hogan partnered with Democrats on bipartisan legislation to try to bring down the crime rate through tougher sentences. He argued that a Jealous proposal — calling for a 30 percent reduction in the prison population — would let criminals out on the streets.
“Governor Hogan, with the support of the Democratic leadership in the legislature and Mayor Pugh, took aggressive steps last session to crack down on repeat violent offenders,” Mayer said. “But Ben Jealous’ plan would cut our public safety budget in half, fire thousands of officers, and release thousands of dangerous criminals back onto our streets. That’s not an anti-crime plan — it’s a recipe for mayhem."
Among the city’s recent homicide victims is 29-year-old Tiffany Jones, a mother of two who worked as a cake decorator at Berger’s Bakery in Lexington Market. Police have made one arrest in that case.
Other recent victims include 67-year-old Randolph Cockrell, who was sleeping on the front porch of a home in the 3700 block of Oakmont Ave. in Northwest Baltimore on August 7. Police said 19-year-old Dion Dixon approached Cockrell, beat him and dragged him off the porch.
There has been several recent victims over 50, including Collin Gardner Jr., 54, who was fatally shot on the afternoon of August 15 in the 2500 block of Woodbrook Ave. in Penn North, and Christopher Brown, 57, who was killed the next morning in the 1100 block of Desoto Road in Southwest Baltimore’s Wilhelm Park neighborhood. An officer witnessed the shooting of Brown, which also injured a second man. Police said drugs were found on the scene, and the victims appeared to be targeted.
On August 18, police said 63-year-old James suffering from a gunshot wound in the 200 block of South Hilton Street in Southwest Baltimore. Family of those men could not be reached for comment Friday. There have been 18 victims over age 50 so far this year.