Across two interviews today, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s crime plan is working, even as shootings and homicides continue apace.
At his weekly press conference, the mayor said the micro-zones police have targeted under the commissioner’s strategy are seeing results, but criminals have now relocated.
“They’re moving out, so we have to start shifting,” he said.
Another component is getting officers out of their cars to engage with citizens and rebuild community trust, he said.
Still, the number of violent crimes is so high of late that, Young said, “half the time, I don’t want to watch the news.” The city has worked with federal and state agencies to catch suspects with open warrants and will continue to do so, he said, but as fast as that happens, new criminal organizations spring up.
“It’s like you plant a flower, in the winter it dies, and then it comes right back,” Young said.
Even with that renewal, the mayor still endorses Harrison’s plan, saying it will take more time for it to produce the reductions in crime the city desires.
And Young is expecting the winter will provide a respite.
“I’m hoping that these colder months will keep [criminals] inside watching TV and doing something positive–working with children who probably need some assistance with homework.”
Appearing hours later on WYPR’s “Midday with Tom Hall,” the mayor was asked how New York City was able to tamp down the mafia in the 1980s and 1990s, while Baltimore’s crime problems have persisted. Young suspected it was their use of zero-tolerance policing, which Baltimore cannot use under the consent decree. (Though it’s something that’s been tried here before, under former police commissioner/current radio host Ed Norris, who was brought from New York to run the BPD in the early 2000s.)
Officers now are being very cautious he said, attributing that to the conviction of members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a literal rogue unit that was convicted of planting evidence, robbing citizens, overtime fraud and a host of other crimes.
Cops are now worried they will be prosecuted when they try to stop someone, Young said.
“Not that they’re doing it wrong intentionally, but they try to apprehend somebody and they get a lawsuit that ‘you twisted my arm too hard,’ and ‘I broke my wrist’ or ‘I broke my arm’–those kind of things. So they’re being very cautious.”
Still, it is incumbent upon officers to rebuild trust in the department, he said.
“What we ask them to do is: You took an oath to serve and protect. And we want you to get out the cars, engage the community so we can build up that community-police relation[ship] again, and move around all of the areas of the city that you have to patrol.”
And if that works, police will start getting better information to build stronger cases and make arrests, Young said, adding the police commissioner, city council and mayor can’t solve crime by themselves.
“We can’t do this alone,” he said. “The community knows who’s committing the murders, the shootings, the carjackings.”
There’s a difference in how this is handled in various parts of the city, he added. The white community is typically more willing to come forward, while the African-American community is often hesitant, he said, calling back to an infamous fire bombing that killed a family of seven and other acts of witness intimidation.
If the BPD is able to improve its standing, he said, “people will start talking.”
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