At crime walk, Mayor Pugh defends strategy to combat Baltimore violence

On the heels of a particularly violent September, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh appeared for a crime walk Monday in Riverside — a peaceful neighborhood reeling from the fatal shooting last week of 25-year-old Timothy Moriconi — and defended her administration’s approach to combating violence.

“Do you think your crime strategy’s working?” a reporter asked as Pugh walked toward a gazebo in Riverside Park where other city officials had gathered

The mayor seemed taken aback.

“Do you read the paper?” she said. “The Sunpaper said the strategy is working. You should read the newspaper.”

Pugh later apologized, saying she had just come from a similar walk in Park Heights and was dealing with the tensions of a crime-filled week. Contacted Monday evening, a spokesman said she was pointing to a Sun editorial that backed her philosophy toward crime-fighting.

Last week alone saw 17 homicides in Baltimore — nearly half of September’s death toll of 37. The month closed as the city’s deadliest in more than a year. At least two people were killed on Monday.

Some 233 people have been killed in Baltimore this year. That’s 33 fewer people than by the end of September 2017. Police and city leaders had expressed guarded optimism before the deadly September. Sixty-four people were also wounded by gunfire last month.

On Monday night Pugh continued to defend her broader crime strategy, saying that aside from September and April of this year, crime in the city has trended downward. She added that she believed many recent killings had been retaliatory, gang-related incidents.

In remarks to the public, Pugh said crime was exacerbated by a large number of illegal guns in the city and an insufficient number of police officers on the street. “I ran into former mayor Martin O’Malley, who told me when he was mayor he had 3,000. We’re somewhere around 2,500, with 300 on leave, sick or otherwise. Which means we don’t have enough police officers on our streets.”

She pointed to her own efforts to streamline the hiring process for officers and said a permanent police commissioner should be named by month’s end — a deadline city officials had announced previously.

To resident Jill Franklin, the mayor was paying “lip service” to public safety while delivering few specifics on crime or on the investigation of Moriconi’s death.

“I want to believe her,” Franklin said. “I’m surprised she’s here. I’m glad she’s here. But the city’s so out of control that unless she has a magic wand, I don’t see what’s going to change.”

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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