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Baltimore Police Department honored Sergeant Billy Shiflett, right, with a Citation of Valor and the Medal of Honor. Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young, left, and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, center.
Baltimore Police Department honored Sergeant Billy Shiflett, right, with a Citation of Valor and the Medal of Honor. Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young, left, and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, center. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)

If Baltimore Mayor Jack Young thinks the only thing he can do to manage violence in Baltimore is to refrain from committing murder himself, he’s not going to last long as the city’s mayor.

“I’m not committing the murders, and that’s what people need to understand," Mr. Young, who inherited the mayoral job this spring after Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned in scandal, said Wednesday at a press conference. He had just been asked whether the city was experiencing a crisis of leadership, as was suggested in a Sun op-ed by the CEO of The Y in Central Maryland in the wake of a beloved employee’s murder in what police believe was a home invasion.

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“How can you fault leadership?" Mr. Young said. "This has been five years of 300-plus murders. I don’t see it as a lack of leadership.”

May we remind Mr. Young, who’s hoping to be elected to the post next year, what is expected of him as mayor and the meaning of leadership? It’s pretty simple: Everything that happens in the city falls squarely on the shoulders of the mayor. A strong and responsible mayor doesn’t deflect blame and brush off criticism, especially when it comes to Baltimore’s most pressing issue.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young speaks at the rec center’s grand reopening. Baltimore City Recreation & Parks (BCRP) reopened the Harlem Park Recreation Center in West Baltimore on Tuesday, August 13.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young speaks at the rec center’s grand reopening. Baltimore City Recreation & Parks (BCRP) reopened the Harlem Park Recreation Center in West Baltimore on Tuesday, August 13. (Ulysses Muoz / Baltimore Sun)

The city’s homicide rate overshadows everything else in Baltimore. Right now, Baltimore’s residents and business owners need vision, guidance and reassurance that city leaders have a plan as the number of lost lives mounts and fear of the city spreads. Baltimore’s constituents have a right to hold their elected leaders responsible, and they should.

Yes, it’s year five, as Mr. Young has reminded us, that the homicide numbers have reached 300. It’s an appalling number. So is 299, for that matter, and every number before it. The escalated violence is not new, but even inherited problems belong to Mr. Young. Not to mention, he was City Council president for years prior to becoming mayor.

Instead of being defensive, he should have reminded people there is a crime plan that the police department is executing, and it is showing some progress. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has been on the job less than a year; it will take time for his strategy to take hold. We would hope that as mayor, Mr. Young is in constant communication with the police commissioner and helping set the agenda.

Mr. Young has declared many times that crime is his No. 1 issue, and some of his ideas are good ones, such as getting ex-offenders employed so they don’t re-offend, targeting the most violent offenders and working toward more cooperation from the community.

"We’re going to get the bad guys,” he also said Wednesday. Unfortunately, that message got lost in his deflection of blame.

Also, not helping the mayor’s case are comments made the week before about crime during a briefing. When asked about the high number of homicides, he declared that it’s about to be winter, and he hoped colder weather will put a freeze on the killings. He implored criminals to “stay inside, watch TV and help kids with homework.” And don’t forget his innovative idea to put criminals in the boxing ring.

The thing is, Mr. Young, people don’t want to hear wise-cracking crime solutions. Parents are moving their families out of the city, and business are closing shop because of shootings, car jacking and other crimes. People don’t feel safe.

Enough passing the buck, Mr. Young. Show you take the issue as seriously as it deserves. Because whether you accept it or not, violent crime is indeed a responsibility of leadership. And as mayor, you’re that leader.

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