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Crime

Baltimore Police report more than $1.3 million in expenses related to the coronavirus, see drop in some crime categories

Baltimore Police have spent $1,328,327 in additional expenses for overtime, laptops, cleaning and equipment amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, department officials said Thursday at the Baltimore City Council’s monthly oversight hearing.

About $510,000 has gone to salaries and overtime specifically related to the department’s COVID-19 response, including additional units dispatched to respond to business checks to enforce Gov. Larry Hogan’s orders to shutter all nonessential businesses to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Nearly $800,000 has been spent on equipment, such as personal protective equipment like masks, according to department figures.

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The spending has been critical to help the department limit the spread of the coronavirus among its 2,500 ranks, James Gillis, deputy commissioner of the department’s administrative bureau, said at the hearing.

According to department figures, 360 staff members have been quarantined since the outbreak began last month in Baltimore, 175 have been tested and 26 have tested positive, of which 23 have returned to work. Only 17 remained quarantined.

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In response to the pandemic, the department has spent $269,000 on technology, $224,000 on laptops for employees to work from home, $108,000 on personal protective equipment, $28,000 on miscellaneous items and $28,000 on cleaning.

The department has also spent $137,000 on tactical equipment in preparation for any civil unrest, Gillis said.

“We just want to be as prepared as possible,” Gillis said. "Hopefully never get to that point.”

Deputy Commissioner Michael Sullivan spoke of the department’s efforts beginning in early March to prepare for the spread of the pandemic. Gillis said all officers who are working have been given N95 masks, and should have received gloves and hand sanitizer. The department has also distributed kits to disinfect police vehicles in between shifts.

Given that the virus is likely to remain a threat, Gillis said, “we are always looking to build the stockpile bigger than it is."

The department is tracking the costs closely and hoping to recoup the funding through the federal government, he said.

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While the department has had to adapt how it responds to calls in light of the virus, the latest department figures show that overall calls for service are down 26% and crime is trending down.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said a number of major crime categories have continued to decline since before the stay-at-home restrictions were put in place, with exceptions of home invasions, which have risen sharply, and homicides, which have remained flat.

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There have been 85 killings this year, which is similar to the same time last year. Home invasions are up 63%.

City Council President Brandon Scott said he spoke with the commissioner before the stay-at-home orders were put in place about his concerns for the potential for increase home invasions.

“I’m not satisfied with where we are,” he said of the numbers, including homicides.

Chief of Patrol Col. Richard Worley said the increase is partially connected to a number of home invasions in the Southwestern and Southeastern districts in which a dozen people have been arrested. The group is believed to be responsible for at least 30 cases in the city, he said.

The Southeastern District has a large increase, where Worley said a robbery crew had targeted Hispanic residents, but he said it is not yet clear how they targeted certain homes.


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