Baltimore needs a governor who will work with city leaders, not tear them down

For decades, we’ve been facing a gun violence crisis in Baltimore. Reducing shootings and murders should be a top public health priority for Maryland. The city is headed toward over 300 murders again this year — nearly one every day. For me, ending gun violence is a deeply personal issue. Born and raised in West Baltimore, gun violence has robbed me of friends and family, including my brother, who was murdered in this city.

Given the life and death gravity of the issue, it could not be more disheartening to watch what's happening between Gov. Larry Hogan and the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. From where I stand on the front lines, it looks like there needs to be fewer public proclamations and more intentional collaboration.


Last week, Governor Hogan accused Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby of agreeing to “excessively lenient plea deals.” His "remedy" for this accusation was to instruct Attorney General Brian Frosh, to take over more violent crime cases in Baltimore. Governor Hogan has also blamed or criticized city judges, the mayor, the police commissioner and state legislators for the city’s violence. We get it. There is enough blame to go around. Meanwhile, people are dying. DYING.

Ms. Mosby responded with shock, stating that she's asked to meet with the governor on more than one occasion. In her open letter, she itemized strategies that would address root causes of violence, along with strategies to hold people accountable for murder. In reading her letter, I am interested in understanding whether it’s true her requests have gone unanswered, and if so, why?


If state resources are not more intentionally directed to healing Baltimore's murder epidemic at its root (addressing poverty, education, food insecurity, lead poisoning, joblessness, underemployment, homelessness, inadequate housing, incarceration of youth over redirecting them to services), it tells me that Baltimore lives do not matter to state government. Unfortunately, too many Baltimore residents already believe that this is the case.

If incarceration was "the answer," so many of us would not still be burying our loved ones while working to heal this epidemic. People have been arrested to the point of overcrowding jails, while guns mysteriously continue flooding the streets of Baltimore. We haven't heard public proclamations about what the governor is doing to find out where guns are coming from, intercept them before they get to neighborhoods and hold people accountable who continue to profit from death in Baltimore.

To heal the culture of gun violence, we must work to prevent the next murder by asking why this behavior is happening, and then we must address those causes. We need deeper investments in violence interruption models like Cure Violence, which studies show not only reduce murder, but change the norms and make people less likely to use guns to settle conflicts. We need more investment in trauma, mental health, conflict management, addiction and care for people impacted by violence. The fact remains that the maps that show Baltimore's food deserts directly overlap maps that show large concentrations of joblessness, liquor stores and homicide. This tells us that in many communities, it's easier to resolve conflict with a gun than to find the nutritious foods needed to nurture the brain's ability to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Baltimore cannot afford to have unanswered requests for collaboration. We do not need to see any more tactics to discredit anyone doing work in Baltimore City. We can’t afford one more proclamation about how broken we are. What we need is diligent work to heal the things that try to break us. We need a governor who will work with grassroots leaders, city officials and Baltimore residents to address the root causes of violence — and not default to promoting strategies that have been proven to increase violence and destroy our hope.

Ask those of us who live and work in Baltimore what we need and listen to our community, especially the people who have been directly impacted by gun violence. We are resilient and resourceful, and we rise to meet our challenges, daily. It would be great if our governor helped us garner the resources of the state to support us in fulfilling our vision for true public safety. Since Ms. Mosby is asking for just that, answering her call instead of finding ways to usurp our local power and vision is what I'd like to see happen. Finding ways to work together on complex, nuanced issues is what leadership requires. And, more importantly, that’s how we will end gun violence in Baltimore.

Erricka Bridgeford ( is founder of Baltimore’s Ceasefire movement. The opinions expressed here are her own.