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Political leaders back Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s crime plan during announcement tour

Baltimore’s political and community leaders rallied behind Mayor Brandon Scott’s newly released crime plan Friday during a day-long series of public events to promote the plan.

The plan, which includes goals to be implemented over the next five years, calls for the city to nearly triple the number of its violence intervention programs currently offered by Safe Streets and others in order to reduce gun violence by 15% annually.

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The proposal also calls for the city to reintroduce a group violence reduction strategy, to provide more comprehensive re-entry services for those returning from incarceration and to better cooperate with federal officials to investigate gun traffickers and illegal gun purchases.

Crowding behind the first-term Democratic mayor outside the Rose Street Community Center in East Baltimore Friday morning, federal, state and local officials clamored to share their praise for the yet untested plan.

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U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, also a Democrat, called the approach “Baltimore’s plan,” touting its “neighborhood up” approach rather than a traditional “top down” governing document.

Federal officials stand ready to find funding for the crime plan, Van Hollen said, although city officials have not announced a budget for it yet.

Asked Thursday about the anticipated cost, Scott said he expected the city to “reprioritize tens of millions of dollars.”

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who also stood behind the mayor during the morning press event, applauded the plan’s collaborative approach.

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“I understand some who may yawn at the thought of yet another violence prevention strategy,” Mosby said. “We’ve tried these approaches in the past, but it was instability in the city leadership that was always a cost to us.”

“Now this mayor, Mayor Scott, the commissioner and I, our federal partners, the community partners are all philosophically aligned when it comes to crime and holistically attacking the root causes of crime,” Mosby added.

Scott’s goodwill tour proceeded to South Baltimore Friday afternoon where the mayor and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison held an informal meeting in Antonio’s Hair Studio in Brooklyn. Scott quizzed a small group of men about what the city needs to do to improve their neighborhood as he sat in a barber’s chair getting a trim.

Safe Streets Brooklyn Site Director Corey Winfield said the need for more re-entry programs is “self-explanatory.”

“I was a young man who did 20 years in prison,” he said. “I came home, and it could have gone a whole different direction than where I’m at now. Given the opportunity, you can see I’m a prime example of what we can do if given the chance.”

Scott’s crime plan says his administration is working on a partnership with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to start working with people in prison several months prior to their release to provide training and employment opportunities as well as social services to assist with their return.

Antonio McDuffie, the barber shop’s owner, said better mental health care would help the residents of Brooklyn to avoid criminal activity.

Scott touted an arm of his plan designed to provide better care for residents who have experienced trauma. Then he turned the question back to McDuffie.

“There’s a stigma in our community, especially with Black men, about it not being cool for you to go and share your feelings,” Scott said. “Let’s talk about how you think us as Black men can play a role in breaking that down, but also institutions like the barber shop, the church, can play a role in helping to break that down.”

Feedback on the plan, which will be revised every two years, was largely favorable from the official voices during Scott’s stops Friday, but it wasn’t all positive.

Madison East resident R.B. Smith shook his head as he watched the parade of public officials at the Friday morning event held around the corner from his home.

Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years, said Safe Streets has been ineffective throughout most of the city. Scott and others have touted the group’s work in Cherry Hill, but that’s not representative of the city, Smith argued.

The solution to Baltimore’s crime problem is hiring more police and paying them accordingly, Smith said. He gestured to the numerous officers standing nearby who had cordoned off the block for Scott’s press event.

“Pay these officers the money they deserve,” he said.

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