As Baltimore braces to surpass 300 homicides for the fifth year in a row, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the city’s leadership isn’t the problem.
“I’m not committing the murders and that’s what people need to understand," Young said Wednesday during his weekly press conference. “How can you fault leadership? This has been five years of 300-plus murders. I don’t see it as a lack of leadership.”
There have been 296 killings so far in 2019. Since the unrest in 2015 that followed the death of Freddie Gray, the city has been unable to keep the number of homicides below the grim benchmark of 300.
Among the most recent victims is Jordan Taylor, a beloved youth sports director at the Catonsville Y. The Y in Central Maryland’s CEO John Hoey wrote Monday in an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun that as violent crime soars, the city has seen “a crisis of leadership.”
Asked Wednesday about Hoey’s comments and the persistent bloodshed, the Democratic mayor said that every city agency feels a sense of urgency to reduce crime.
“We’re going to get the bad guys,” Young said. “We’re going to get them.”
Young became City Council president in 2010, then took over as mayor this spring after Democrat Catherine Pugh resigned amid investigations into her business dealings.
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He is running for reelection in a 2020 race in which the crime rate will play a major role. Nine Democrats and four Republicans have filed to compete in the April 28 primary, and others have announced they are running.
Several candidates were quick to jump on Young’s comments Wednesday.
Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott posted on social media that “residents deserve to know their leaders have a vision to coordinate our precious resources in the fight against violent crime effectively and urgently, not passing the buck."
Democrat Thiru Vignarajah, a former federal and city prosecutor, asked if Young was confused about why people would look to a mayor for leadership on crime.
“If he thinks it’s not just his job to end the bloodshed,” Vignarajah wrote in a statement, "he should hand over the reins to someone who realizes it is.”
In response to the criticism, Young’s campaign manager issued a statement from the mayor saying he grieves for every life lost.
“While no leaders in our city are personally responsible for these crimes, ALL of us have a role to play in stopping them. And, as Mayor, I take and will continue to take responsibility for making our city safer and cleaner,” he wrote. “But the City leadership can’t do it alone. We need community leaders, stakeholders, and everyday Baltimoreans to come together and work to reduce gun violence.”