Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

In the first five months of 2020, crime in Baltimore is down 21 percent compared to the same period in 2019 however the pace of homicides is up slightly from last year’s staggering total, according to a report that the Baltimore Police Department released today.

The report reviews the progress so far of BPD’s five-year “Crime Reduction & Department Transformation Plan” over the last fiscal year.

In a year-to-date comparison of the first five months of the year, the total number of crimes fell from 14,395 in 2019 to 11,404 in 2020, a 21 percent decrease, according to data from BPD.

Violent crimes declined by 12 percent. That includes incidents of rape (38 percent decrease), robbery (15 percent decrease) and aggravated assault (9 percent decrease). Shootings, which are a subcategory of aggravated assault or robbery, decreased by 15 percent.

However, homicides increased by 2 percent. A total of 348 Baltimoreans were killed in 2019, the second highest total on record.

The city experienced a 24 percent reduction in property crimes, including burglary (21 percent decrease), larceny (27 percent decrease), larceny from automobiles (25 percent decrease), automobile theft (20 percent decrease) and arson (26 percent decrease).

Common assault, which is not considered a “Part 1” crime, or major offense, and therefore was not counted toward the city’s total number of crimes, declined by 14 percent.

In an introductory note, Baltimore Police Commissioner said it’s been one year since he introduced his crime plan.

During that time, Baltimore City saw a change in leadership with former Mayor Catherine Pugh resigning due to her “Healthy Holly” scandal and current Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young stepping in; a ransomware attack that ultimately cost the city about $18 million; the coronavirus pandemic; and protests against police brutality and racial injustice, all while grappling with “historic levels of violence,” Harrison wrote.

But Harrison said BPD has made progress in many areas of its plan, and the department plans to build upon that foundation in the years ahead.

“Over the last year, we have undertaken numerous changes in our Department that has led to further accountability, more fiscal responsibility, newer technology, more rigorous training as well as implementing stronger networks to streamline how our resources are managed,” Harrison said in a statement.

In his note, Harrison said he’s “extremely proud” of the reforms the department has made, some of which are mandated by the consent decree overseen by a federal judge.

“No one accomplishment by itself will solve all of our problems, but taken together represent positive momentum and a foundation that we will build upon this upcoming year and beyond,” he wrote. “As we do this, we will add greater capacity, become a stronger Department, and improve our ability to respond to and prevent crime in Baltimore.”

The report highlights some of the reforms the department has taken in the last year, such as retraining officers on new use-of-force policies that focus on de-escalating situations; implementing new “victim-centered, trauma-informed” policies and procedures for handling sexual assault incidents; and developing a plan with community and officer feedback to build public trust and reduce crime.

BPD reported that complaints to the Public Integrity Bureau, which investigates allegations of misconduct by BPD members, previously took up to one year to complete but are now completed within an average of nine months, and the department is working to reduce that time further.

The department has also implemented a program to train officers to intervene when other officers are engaging in “wrongful actions.”

The Police Training Academy has moved to the University of Baltimore and increased academy personnel. The academy has also reduced class schedules by eight weeks, which it says will not affect training standards or coursework, to increase capacity. The department is now able to train 200 to 400 recruits and 2,500 officers per year.

The department also set a goal of responding to emergency calls for service within 10 minutes, which they surpassed with an eight-minute average response time that they are working to make quicker, the review said.

BPD is working to promote officer safety and wellness by conducting weekly stress management sessions for 2,100 officers, training 24 members to provide peer and emotional support, and introducing wellness services through a mobile app.

Over the next year, the department will implement upgrades to modernize its operations, using new systems to digitize BPD’s records; track officers’ training, class attendance and performance; and assist with scheduling and overtime.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at