Foot patrols aren't a strategy for reducing gun crime

Rounding up the usual suspects and putting officers on foot patrol for a few weeks are desperate moves by the Baltimore Police Department to temporarily shut down gun homicides before the nice weather arrives and street crime picks up with a vengeance ("6 killings continue violent 2013 start," March 5).

Temporarily flooding the streets with foot patrols is feel-good initiative similar to gun buy-back programs. Violent crime in this town is gun driven, and officers on foot, unless they are jacking up every possible suspect they see while walking their beats, will probably just displace people with illegal guns to other parts of their district.

This is nice for the folks in areas where the officers are concentrated, not so nice for those in adjacent neighborhoods where thugs will gravitate. The key to reducing gun violence is intelligence, which can only come from the community.

The department has to get creative about how it attacks violent crime. If more foot patrols were the answer, why haven't police been doing that all along? The answer is 1) it is too expensive, and 2) it doesn't work unless it is carried out over an extended period of time.

Which brings one right back to the high cost of dedicated foot patrols. Departmental leaders have to think like the residents of areas that are experiencing violent crime, that is, asking what would make a resident tell the police who is carrying an illegal gun.

Don't get fixated on people's responsibility to fulfill some "civic duty" to help the police. That feel-good answer doesn't buy groceries. But a healthy dose of cynicism can nicely clear the mind.

Jim Giza, Baltimore

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