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Editorial

Eight years of more than 300 homicides in Baltimore; can new leaders prevent a ninth? | COMMENTARY

A crime lab technician documents the shooting scene outside Popeye’s at Edmondson Village Wednesday afternoon where five juveniles were shot.

Baltimore closed the books on 2022 with 334 homicides, little changed from the 338 recorded the previous year. It was the eighth year in a row with at least 300 murders, making Charm City not only among the most dangerous major urban centers in the United States (second to St. Louis, according to the most recent FBI crime data), but its residents among the most long-suffering.

It did not take long for 2023 to record more of the same, with police reporting the shooting death of a 17-year-old girl on North Glover Street in East Baltimore less than four hours into the new year. Just three days later, 16-year-old student Deanta Dorsey was killed after he and four classmates at Edmondson-Westside High School were shot while standing outside the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. So far, the new year looks depressingly familiar.

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A day before the Edmondson Village mass shooting, Ivan Bates assumed the job of Baltimore City state’s attorney, promising the make the city safer for all. On that same day, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown was installed as Maryland’s incoming attorney general who, among other things, supports state prosecution of police wrongdoing. On Jan. 18, Wes Moore, who has pledged to address crime through greater cooperation among the city and state, will be sworn in as governor.

All three have demonstrated a depth of understanding of the issues facing Baltimore — from too many guns to too few economic opportunities associated with systemic racism to a culture of violence and despair. And they seem willing to team with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Commissioner Michael Harrison. We hope that, together, these five men can make a difference. Provided, that is, they keep the focus on the issues and the residents, rather than their relationship squabbles, as was seen between Mayor Scott and outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan, or personal problems, like outgoing State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who faces a federal trial on charges of perjury and mortgage fraud.

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Mayor Scott has recorded some improvement in the Western District from his group violence reduction pilot program, with fewer shootings and homicides in that region. But it is far too early to celebrate, given how the city’s overall gun violence numbers remain high. The efforts in the district — reducing the number of guns on the street, providing better job training and opportunities, pursuing constitutional policing with appropriate oversight — require greater investments in resources and public outreach. This is where elected leaders must have a preeminent role.

Many of the city’s toughest challenges — including concentrated poverty, the legacies of racism and the damage done by substance abuse and personal trauma — were inherited by the Scott administration. They are long-standing and similar challenges afflict many other U.S. communities. But the city’s ability to continue to weather these body blows is not unlimited. If the mayor and police commissioner expect to stay employed in their current posts, they need to deliver.

In 2021, Scott promised an annual 15% reduction in gun violence for the next five years. He is nowhere near reaching that goal, and there is a sense of great frustration in the air. Progress is slim, and patience is wearing thin. There is no bigger challenge facing Baltimore. Not today. Not tomorrow.

Five years plans are nice. But we need real demonstrable change now and all hands working toward it — with no opportunity for crime fighting left behind.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.


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