Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Friday they are bringing a Chicago-style crime-fighting strategy to Baltimore.
Appearing before a joint legislative committee in Annapolis considering how best to reduce violent crime in Baltimore, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Young and Mosby said they’re launching nine “Baltimore Community Intelligence Centers” modeled on the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Decision Support Centers.
“This problem keeps me up at night,” Young told the lawmakers of Baltimore’s level of violence. “It’s the first thing I’m thinking about each morning. It’s that urgent.”
Young told the lawmakers he lost a cousin last week to gun violence. His nephew also was killed in 2015.
“For me, this is really personal,” said Young, who started his presentation by asking for a moment of silence for the dead.
Lawmakers from the state Senate and House of Delegates committees that consider criminal justice legislation called the Baltimore leaders to Annapolis to discuss what to do about the city’s crime rate. Baltimore has suffered from more than 300 homicides a year since 2015 ― making the city among the most murderous large municipalities in the country.
“Public safety is in crisis in Baltimore and in our state,” said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “Too often, the victims of shootings have participated in shootings in the past, and shooters themselves have been the victims of violence. Greater coordination between the state, surrounding jurisdictions and the city is essential as we target the people who are continuing to engage in violence in Baltimore.”
While Chicago is known as the American city with the highest number of homicides, killings there have fallen three years in a row. Last year, 492 people were the victim of homicide in Chicago, down from 778 in 2016.
Young and Mosby recently visited Chicago to learn about its crime-fighting techniques.
The two Democrats asked the legislators to help fund the nine Baltimore Community Intelligence Centers, which would cost about $1.9 million.
The centers are district-level operations that use data analysis and technology ― such as gunshot detection software, license plate readers and surveillance cameras ― to intervene and respond to crime.
Operating 24 hours a day, the centers are designed to be staffed by police officers, attorneys, analysts and case managers. Staff at the centers are supposed to identify individuals who are at the highest risk of being shot and to intervene with them, helping them receive housing, drug treatment and job training.
Mosby asked the legislature to redirect money Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has dedicated to Baltimore-focused prosecutors in the state attorney general’s office to the new centers. She said the governor’s proposal for the attorney general’s office to take a greater role in fighting crime in Baltimore detracts from the mission of her office, and she hoped city and state officials could work together “without vitriol or blame."
“Redirect the money you intend to give to the attorney general,” Mosby said she’s asking Hogan, “and give us the $1.9 million, so we can ensure we fully staff these intelligence centers.”
Mike Ricci, the governor’s spokesman, didn’t respond directly to Mosby’s request, but issued the following statement:
“In this crisis, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to hold violent criminals accountable and get more shooters off the streets," Ricci said. “The governor believes this is the most important priority for the General Assembly to act on in this session. We continue to call on city leaders to join our efforts."
Harrison said he wanted the legislature to ensure that there’s "swift and certain consequences " for crime and to support initiatives to “make parents more involved” in their children’s lives.
After the Baltimore leaders finished their presentation about combating the murder rate, the first question from the legislators was not about homicides, but about so-called squeegee workers who wash windows at intersections.
"Why is there such an extreme lack of enforcement?” asked Del. Robin Grammer, a Baltimore County Republican.
Harrison said squeegee workers are doing something akin to “panhandling” and constantly monitoring their actions presents a staffing challenge.
“To do that, takes many officers away from … far more serious things,” he said.
Other lawmakers pledged support for the city.
Del. Wanika Fisher, a Prince George’s Democrat, said the answers to the city’s problems wouldn’t be found in the Judiciary Committee, but in those bodies that consider increased funding and better programming for Baltimore youth.
“All of my colleagues agree: when Baltimore fails, Maryland fails,” Fisher said. “We’re here to make sure Baltimore succeeds. ... In my perspective, resources, love and support need to go to Baltimore.”
Fisher then asked Young what he needed from the legislature.
He responded: “Resources and love.”