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Politics

Baltimore City Council approves first major changes to city’s police district map in more than 60 years

For the first time in more than 60 years, Baltimore’s police district map will be overhauled following approval from Baltimore City Council.

City Council members voted 12-3 Monday in favor of the proposal, which will shrink the size of the sprawling Northeastern District, the city’s largest by population and police workload.

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The redistricting process, which began last year, is required under state legislation passed in 2019 that directs Baltimore Police to reevaluate the boundaries after each decennial U.S. census. The current boundaries for the department’s nine districts have remained roughly the same for decades, despite major shifts in population and crime trends.

The new map was drafted by Baltimore Police with input from Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott’s office and members of the City Council. Scott is expected to approve the plan; council did not alter it.

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The council’s approval came in spite of reservations shared by some members and city residents aired at a committee hearing last month. People living in the Belair Edison and Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhoods, which would move from the Northeastern District to the Eastern District under the plan, said they were concerned their property values could decrease as a result of a move into a district with a higher crime rate. Others said they worried that fewer law enforcement resources would be dedicated to their neighborhoods, particularly for proactive policing.

Democratic councilmen Eric Costello, Antonio Glover and Robert Stokes voted against the plan Monday. The council initially passed the bill unanimously. The group then recalled the bill and revoted so the members’ opposition could be noted. There was no discussion.

Stokes, who represents Central and East Baltimore, said after the meeting that he objects to adding higher crime neighborhoods to the Eastern District, which he said has the lowest budget of any city police division.

The Baltimore City Council has approved a revised police district map.

Promises of additional resources for the Eastern District from Scott’s administration, such as the potential expansion of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy pilot program there, were enough to allay the concerns of some council members, including Democrat Odette Ramos. Ramos initially had concerns about the plan, but ultimately voted in favor.

Stokes said he was unpersuaded.

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“That’s a game,” he said. “Put more money into the budget.”

The final map approved by council members included a series of changes from a previous iteration as a result of feedback from residents and council members. The mayor’s first draft, floated before an introduction to City Council, made Greenmount Avenue the eastern boundary of the Northern District. The department changed that after residents and elected officials argued it would break up a major business corridor.

Council members have been supportive of the map’s efforts to eliminate problematic intersections like the existing “tri-district area,” where the Western, Southwestern and Southern districts currently come together. That area, which has been plagued by frequent gun violence, will merge into the Southwestern District, including Carrollton Ridge, Union Square and Poppleton.

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The Western District, which currently covers the smallest geographic area at under 3 square miles, will expand to include the Reservoir Hill, Bolton Hill and Upton neighborhoods west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Central District will shift eastward and extend from Fells Point north to East Biddle Street.

Glover, who represents East Baltimore and voted against the plan, told The Baltimore Sun last month he heard from numerous constituents concerned about diminished property values and losing existing relationships with district police leadership. He said residents of Belair Edison and Madison-Eastend, which would become part of the Southeast District, were particularly concerned.

Residents who spoke at the council’s committee hearing on the map echoed those concerns, saying they feared severing relationships with district commanders that they have built through years of interaction.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison assured them he instructed all district commanders to work toward a smooth transition by personally introducing community leaders to their new command staff and officers.


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