A new anti-violence program led Baltimore police to raid the home of a convicted drug dealer they had hoped to reform, and to nearly $4 million worth of drugs and cash, a significant seizure for the department.
Standing over a table displaying $825,000 cash and nearly 12 kilograms of heroin, police officials said Shawn Antonio Hearn, a 41-year-old with a prior federal drug conviction, had been given a chance through the Operation Ceasefire program. He didn't take that chance, they said.
"With Ceasefire, we want to give people who have a history of criminal activity a way out. We want them to go straight," Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Friday. "Last night, our enforcement efforts came to bear on an individual who decided not to get out of the violence as we provided a pathway out."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Batts have pushed the Ceasefire initiative as a novel way to reduce crime. Through the pilot program, which began in March, law enforcement, clergy and others conduct face-to-face sessions with those believed responsible for violence, or at risk of being targeted for violence, and offer services such as mentoring opportunities.
And they are warned of the consequences for returning to criminal ways.
Police seized the drugs and money Thursday night during a raid on Hearn's home in the 2600 block of Oakley Ave. in Northwest Baltimore's Cylburn neighborhood. Police said the drugs were connected to violence, though no weapons were seized. Officials declined to provide more details.
Court records show that Hearn faces drug-related charges including possession with intent to distribute. He is being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
Reached by phone, a relative declined to comment, and no attorney is listed in court records.
Hearn was one of 574 people who have been targeted by the Ceasefire program in West Baltimore, police said.
That number represents about 1.4 percent of the population of the district, and police have said that the group was responsible for a most homicides and non-fatal shootings in the area. West Baltimore had the most homicides of any of the city's nine police districts last year.
The Ceasefire program has been credited with violence reduction in cities across the country. It was brought to Baltimore in the late 1990s, but disintegrated under conflicting philosophies.
Last fall, Rawlings-Blake reached out to creator David M. Kennedy, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and provided funding to try it again. The estimated cost of the program was $380,000.
Officials said they plan to expand the program to the east side, as well as other sites.
Citywide, homicides are down 17 percent, compared with the same time last year, agency statistics show. Non-fatal shootings are down 11 percent, compared with the same period in 2013.
Kennedy said Hearn's case is not an example of the program failing, but a cautionary tale of the consequences for not taking part.
"Narcotics investigations are frequently the way those legal consequences are brought to bear," Kennedy said in a phone interview.
Kennedy also said the Ceasefire initiative in Baltimore is working as it has in other cities, targeting a very narrow cross-section of the population.
"That pattern is precisely what we expected to find," he said. "These remarkably small groups are responsible for a remarkably high proportion of the violence. That is why the focus on those groups in very particular ways is so necessary and effective."
Kennedy, who criticized former city officials in his memoir for how they handled Ceasefire during its previous incarnation, said current officials are "doing an absolutely exemplary job."
"It is really, really remarkable," he said.
On Friday, police showed reporters the seized cash in about 120 neat stacks on a table in police headquarters. Large plastic bags full of a tan substance, which police said was 12 kilograms of raw heroin, were displayed along with cutting agents, a scale, and other paraphernalia.
Court records show Hearn was charged in federal court in 2000 and convicted on charges of possession with intent to distribute narcotics. He was sentenced to 110 months — about nine years — and records show he was released in early 2009. His supervised release was concluded in 2011, and he has not been arrested since, court records show.
Lt. Chris O'Ree, commander of the Ceasefire investigative team, and Lt. Col. Sean Miller, the commander overseeing west-side police districts, said Hearn was a "mid-level narcotics dealer" supplying the Monroe Street corridor in West Baltimore. Batts said the seized heroin was worth $3 million on the market.
"That equates to violence, shootings, murders on our streets," he said. "Taking this money off, taking these criminals off, taking these drugs off our streets will ensure that we will reduce the violence and the level of harm done in this city."