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Editorial

Baltimore is bleeding; Gov.-elect Moore, please send help | COMMENTARY

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore declares victory over Republican opponent Dan Cox. Moore celebrates with running mate Aruna Miller, left, at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on election night. Moore has said he will make the health of Baltimore a priority in his administration.

Tuesday’s election in Maryland was historic for a number of reasons, not the least of which was how Democrats Wes Moore and running mate Aruna Miller broke so many barriers in capturing the posts of governor and lieutenant governor, beginning with Moore’s status as the state’s first Black governor and Miller’s as the first immigrant to hold statewide office and the first Asian American lieutenant governor.

But it also offers something else: a unique opportunity to save lives.

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Maryland’s governor-elect understands Baltimore, its success, failures and opportunities; its history of systemic racism, redlining and violent crime, which includes the devastating threat posed by gun violence. As Maryland voters headed to the polls, a 13-year-old girl was in critical condition after being shot in the head Monday afternoon in the Dunbar-Broadway community. That was just one day after anti-violence activist Tyree Moorehead was killed by police as he assaulted a woman with a knife in his hand — the officer’s multiple shots caught on body camera in a chilling video.

The crisis is not new. Baltimore is on pace for another year with at least 300 homicides for the eighth consecutive time. Indeed, it’s likely to hit that landmark in a matter of days. But what is new are the possibilities raised by our city and state’s significant change in leadership. The new Baltimore state’s attorney, Ivan Bates, has promised a more hard-nosed approach to crime than has been taken by the current officeholder, who frequently sparred with outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan. Bates’ win, coupled with a Governor Moore in Annapolis, presents an opportunity for a more coordinated, thoughtful, better funded and more ambitious response to gun violence in the city. As much as Mayor Brandon Scott has been vocal in identifying the roots of gun violence in chronic and long-standing social problems, he must recognize that Baltimore needs more than higher high school graduation rates or career paths for squeegee workers under the recently-announced Squeegee Collaborative — as important as both those missions may be.

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What might a Moore-Scott-Bates partnership produce? Here are some ideas.

Step one might be accomplished in a matter of weeks, if not days given Moore’s quick assembly of a transition team, and that’s for Maryland’s next governor to appoint a new secretary for the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services who has a deep understanding of Baltimore and the available remedies to gun violence. In turn, that person would assemble a council to coordinate a response with involvement of everyone from General Assembly leaders and newly elected Attorney General Anthony Brown to Mayor Scott and State’s Attorney Bates. The secretary-designee needs to accept a major share of responsibility here. As has been observed before, a high percentage of those individuals committing homicides in Baltimore are under the “supervision” (as ineffectual as it has sometimes proven to be) of the state’s Division of Parole and Probation.

Next would be for Baltimore’s mayor and its incoming governor to have a frank discussion about what can be done to upgrade policing in the city. Is it a resource issue? Is it leadership problem? A training problem? A failure of community relations? It’s clear that perpetrators aren’t getting caught — or even deterred — in sufficient numbers. Police, prosecutors (and yes, elected leaders) need to understand that they will be judged on their ability to address violent crime. At some point, if the numbers don’t come down, changes need to be made. Baltimoreans have demonstrated ample patience (despite examples of police brutality and corruption), but we’re long past the point of enough is enough. There is only one measure of progress that counts right now: Reducing the body count.

At the heart of all this is accountability. For eight years under a Republican governor and Democratic city leadership, there was clearly a lack of coordination, but there was no shortage of buck-passing and finger-pointing. It’s likely no coincidence that the shootings continued unabated. Nobody expects Wes Moore to produce miracles overnight. But it’s not unreasonable to expect the governor and state legislature, the mayor, the city’s prosecutor, the Biden administration and the City Council to at least be singing from the same hymn book — or announcing random initiatives like increasing late-night state police patrols on the major thoroughfares leading to the city. The days of excuses are past. A comprehensive plan to save lives here and now in Baltimore needs to be a top priority.

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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