Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday announced that the city had released a draft of its violence prevention plan. Image via Facebook Live.

A draft of Baltimore City’s public safety plan identifies violence as a public health crisis and seeks to address factors that lead to violence.

Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday released a draft of the city’s Violence Prevention Framework and Plan, calling for community feedback on strategies to reduce violence in Baltimore.

“Baltimoreans deserve to live in safe neighborhoods where the public health of our
communities comes first and our children can thrive,” Scott wrote in an introduction to the plan.

Among the plan’s goals: a reduction in gun violence by 15% yearly, and betters supports for victims of intimate partner violence.

In May 2020, the Baltimore City Council, led at the time by then-Council President Scott, passed a bill mandating the city health department to develop a biennial, comprehensive, trauma-informed, violence prevention plan.

As part of that mandate, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa in September 2020 convened a task force of city, state and federal agencies and partners to address violence and trauma through a public health lens.

The task force, which met eight times between September 2020 to January 2021, identified four markers of a healthy and safe Baltimore City for people who live, work and visit: to have equitable life opportunities; to have equitable life expectancy; to be safe; and to thrive.

For each part, the task force evaluated how the city is doing currently, how to “turn the curve” and who can help do so, and what the next steps are to address that need.

The public health crisis not only includes the incidents of violence themselves, but exposure to violence and trauma can also lead to increased rates of chronic diseases, risk-taking behaviors, sexually transmitted infections, suicide, depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), city officials wrote in the draft plan.

Scott created the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) in December 2020 to lead citywide efforts to address gun violence in Baltimore and other social determinants of health.

The draft plan seeks to “sustainably” reduce gun violence by 15% per year and improve community perception of safety in the city.

Strategies include strengthening the city’s Safe Streets program; coordinating more with violence intervention partners, including hospitals and community organizations; and developing a system to support communities after incidents of gun violence to help people heal, address trauma and decrease retaliation.

The city’s plan calls for creating a better support system for victims of intimate partner violence — which city officials said accounts for more than 20% of violent crime — sexual violence and human trafficking.

The plan also aims to reduce the number of youth who are arrested or incarcerated by addressing underlying causes of young people entering the justice system, as well as developing better support networks for formerly incarcerated individuals to successfully re-enter society.

“If returning citizens succeed, communities succeed, and Baltimore succeeds,” the plan said.

Scott said in the plan that police will play a role in improving and maintaining the safety of Baltimore neighborhoods, but “they simply cannot stem the tide of violence on their own.”

The violence prevention plan relies on collaboration among all city agencies and with community partners and individuals.

“Past public safety practices have failed to yield long-term results for Baltimore. This Draft Violence Prevention Framework and Plan is based in equity, healing, and trauma-informed practices,” Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said in a statement. “My team will work closely with the Mayor to implement this plan, which operationalizes a public health approach to violence, centers on community engagement and collaboration across agencies, and focuses on data-driven practice and accountability.”

The city is now looking for input from community members about the draft plan, including whether the plan takes an “equitable and holistic” approach to gun violence, neighborhood health and safety.

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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