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Mayor confident city police will push to quell surge of violence

As violence surges, mayor said police's patrol strategy shift will work.

The mayor's office expressed confidence Sunday that Baltimore police were responding adequately to a surge in city violence that included the killing of the City Council president's nephew.

On Sunday, police identified a man fatally shot Saturday afternoon in the 3200 block of Elmley Ave. in Northeast Baltimore as Steven Jackson, 29, the nephew of City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young.

Police found Jackson with a gunshot wound to the head about 1:30 p.m. He died at an area hospital. Young expressed his outrage and frustration over the killing in a Facebook post Saturday but he declined to comment on Sunday.

“It's been an extremely difficult time for him and his family," said Young's spokesman, Lester Davis.

The death of Jackson, as well as two other homicides on Saturday, pushed Baltimore's yearly homicide count to 54, eight more than at this time last year. Police said nonfatal shootings are also up 40 percent — 84 compared with 60 at this time last year — as of Thursday. At least 14 city shootings involving multiple victims have been reported this year.

After West Baltimore homicides were reduced by half in 2014 — 21, compared with 43 in 2013 — the area has already seen 12 killings this year. Much of last year's improvement was attributed to the work of Operation Ceasefire, an anti-violence program that began working in Baltimore last year to monitor violent felons.

The increase in violence has concerned Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, her spokesman said on Sunday.

"She has been in regular communication with the police commissioner, and she has received a detailed outline of what we're going to be doing to combat the recent uptick in shootings and homicides," said Kevin Harris, the mayor's chief spokesman.

While police and the mayor said in January that a new patrol schedule, which shifted officers to 10-hour workdays, would give commanders the flexibility needed to deploy more officers to high-crime areas while cutting overtime, Harris acknowledged that results aren't being seen. The shift also corresponded with a 13 percent raise for Baltimore officers this fiscal year.

Harris said it takes time for new tactics to work, and he said police have had to fight crime while instituting the new strategy. He likened the effort to building "your plane as you're flying it."

"I think any time you do a major reform like that. it takes time to get it up and running, but what you have to deal with day to day isn't going to stop to get your new reform up and running," Harris said.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about Saturday's homicides to call 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.
Baltimore Sun reporter Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/justingeorge

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