Study: Community-driven Ceasefire weekends effective in reducing violence in Baltimore

Young supporters of the Baltimore Ceasefire carry signs at a rally in 2018. Photo by J.M. Giordano.

A report published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) dispelled some previous criticisms of the Baltimore Ceasefire movement’s effectiveness, instead finding there was an estimated 52 percent reduction in gun violence during Ceasefire weekends.

The study, headed by Dr. Peter Phalen of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, examined the 6,024 fatal and non-fatal shootings that occurred in Baltimore from Jan. 1, 2012, to July 6, 2019.

The researchers found that the number of shootings dipped during quarterly Ceasefire weekends that have been led by anti-violence activists since 2017.

Community groups raise concerns over 79-space parking lot proposed for Druid Hill Park

An aerial rendering of the planned renovations to the Druid Hill Aquatic Center. Image courtesy of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks.

A plan to update the swimming pool at Druid Hill Park is drawing community support, but some residents are questioning the need for a 79-space parking lot.

The Druid Hill Aquatic Center is slated to undergo renovations to its main pools and mechanical systems and add a new bathhouse and kiddie splash pool. But the project would also add dozens parking spaces around the tennis courts across East Drive from the aquatic center, leaving several community groups concerned about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists amidst increased vehicle traffic.

Following attack on police, official says city is working to ‘eradicate’ squeegeeing, engage young people

Photo by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr

One day after police said two squeegee workers attacked two officers, resulting in minor injuries, an official detailed how the city is working to “eradicate” the practice of washing windows for money and engage the young people who perform the work on city streets.

Baltimore Sun, Capital Gazette staffers take buyouts

Photo by Brandon Weigel.

At least 11 Baltimore Sun Media Group employees accepted buyouts from Tribune Publishing, including three Capital Gazette journalists who reported on the shooting of their own newsroom, and long-time Sun journalists covering arts and University of Maryland athletics.

Contractor criminally charged for demolition of St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum

The rubble from W. Lafayette Street. Photo by Ethan McLeod.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh today criminally charged a contractor for his role in the 2018 demolition the Vincent’s Orphan Asylum building in Upton.

According to a criminal information released by Frosh’s office today, William Anthony Culler II, owner of the Culler Group, is charged with one count of failing to obtain a permit and seven counts of failing to follow state code for such projects.

Health Department issues Code Blue warning for Sunday evening

Image via Facebook.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa issued a Code Blue Extreme Cold Alert for Sunday evening into Monday morning, when temperatures are expected to dip into the low 20’s.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures are forecast to drop to 21 degrees on Sunday night, with wind gusts as high as 23 mph. Prior to that, the forecast calls for a mix of rain and snow throughout most of the day Saturday.

BPD detective indicted for role in gun-planting incident tied to GTTF

Gun Trace Task Force members (top row L-R) Thomas Allers, Momudo Gondo, Maurice Ward and Marcus Taylor, and (bottom row L-R) Jemell Rayam, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl and Wayne Jenkins. Images via the Baltimore Police Department.

Federal prosecutors indicted a Baltimore police detective over his alleged role in helping Gun Trace Task Force Sgt. Wayne Jenkins plant a gun on a man he had hit with his pickup truck in 2014.

Robert Hankard, 43, is also charged for allegedly falsifying police reports from a 2015 drug bust, and giving false testimony about the gun-planting incident when he appeared before a federal grand jury in February 2019.

Tribune Publishing proposes buyouts, raising prospect of more Baltimore Sun departures

Photo by Brandon Weigel.

Tribune Publishing, owner of more than a half dozen newspapers, including The Sun, is starting the new year offering company-wide buyouts, president and CEO Tim Knight announced in an email to employees.

Baltimore mayoral candidate and former BPD spokesman T.J. Smith releases crime plan

Smith in 2018. Photo via T.J. Smith Media/Facebook.

Former Baltimore Police Department spokesman and mayoral candidate T.J. Smith released today his crime plan, calling for targeted policing where the murders happen, putting more police officers on the street, and disrupting the flow of guns into the city, among other initiatives. Smith, who most recently worked as a spokesperson for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., served as chief spokesman of the BPD from 2015 to 2018.

“We can change the culture of gun violence in our city, but we must also change the approach of City Hall,” he said in a statement. “Real, immediate results can be seen with a mayor who has the policing experience, vision, and trust of the community.”

Baltimore mayoral candidates respond to record homicide rate

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The death on Dec. 31 of a man shot two weeks earlier marked the 348th murder in Baltimore last year, the highest homicide rate — 57 per 100,000 residents — on record.

The final weeks of the year were especially deadly, with a mass shooting injuring seven people, the murder of a mother-of-four in the deli where she worked, and the murder of a hair salon owner in her shop. Two days before the close of 2019, four men were shot, and three killed, in a North Baltimore house.

The city’s destructive violence has become the number one issue of the mayoral primary, just over three months away, as residents, business leaders, clergy and others demand solutions and a change in direction to reduce the bloodshed.