Pugh attributes spike in violence to ‘drug war’; 230 more officers to be deployed

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Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

Following a day in which 11 people were shot, three fatally, Mayor Catherine Pugh attributed a recent spike in violence to an ongoing war between drug dealers.

“There are at least seven different products being sold over in West Baltimore,” said Pugh, attributing this information to the fact that “the streets always talk.” “If you ride through, you can hear, ‘We got this, I got this, I got this,’ and everybody’s territorial.

“People are protecting their territory with guns.”

At a press conference called to address the violence, Acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle agreed.

“A lot of this stuff is connected,” he said. “The common denominator is the demand for drugs in this city.”

Tuggle announced he is suspending administrative operations at headquarters and in all the district precincts, sending an additional 230 officers to patrol the streets. Those assignments will continue for as long as the department can sustain them, he said.

“There are a number of things that won’t get done,” he said. “But right now patrol is the priority, addressing this crime is the priority.”

The shootings yesterday began at 1:40 a.m., when a 69-year-old woman and 36-year-old man were shot in the 5300 block of Cordelia Avenue in Arlington. At 9:04 a.m., police were dispatched to the 2900 block of Westwood Avenue, in the Northwest Community Action neighborhood, where they found a 21-year-old man and a 18-year-old woman suffering from gunshot wounds.

The first homicide came just after noon, when a 29-year-old man was fatally shot and two others, ages 35 and 37, were struck in the 2400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Penn North. At 2:37 p.m., a man was fatally shot near the 1800 block of W. Fayette Street in Franklin Square, and another, 52, was killed in the 1100 block of N. Carey Street, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, at 6:21 p.m.

There were two more non-fatal shootings in the evening–at the 3900 block of Boarman Avenue, in Callaway-Garrison, at 7:30 p.m., and the 2500 block of Cylburn Avenue, just outside Sinai Hospital, at 10:24 p.m.

Pugh stressed the city is working with state and federal agencies to deter the violence, and is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach with officer deployments. The Maryland State Police, Baltimore County Police Department, MTA Police, Maryland Transportation Authority Police and the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office are among the local groups to send reserves.

The additional manpower and resources should help police “be a lot more proactive,” Tuggle said.

“And we’re gonna leverage those partnerships, both with our state and local partners, as well as our federal partners, to put an end to this.”

Discussing longer-term plans, Pugh said the city is working to put up more lights on street corners and, in partnership with the cable company Comcast, 100 more cameras. But the neighborhoods seem to be getting more violent as more illegal guns and drugs flow in, she said, renewing her call for hiring more police officers.

Looking back to this time last year, the mayor said violence was increasing in the Northeast part of the city, so police allocated more resources there.

“The problem is displacement. You get one area secured, and then it pops up here,” she said.

When asked about how other, larger cities are able to quell shootings, Pugh pointed to stricter gun laws with mandatory sentences for carrying illegal firearms. In Baltimore, she said, it’s too easy to get those weapons, directing some of the blame northward, to the state of Pennsylvania, where there are “too many gun shows.”

“People go up there and they buy them, and they bring them back and distribute them all over the city,” she said.

“It is just too much,” she concluded. “It is intolerable.”

While noting that investment and development are coming to some of the areas in the west and northwest parts of the city affected by violence, she addressed the “drug dealers, drug sellers, whoever you are, gun-toters” directly, she said: “It’s not acceptable. And so we will continue to fight to reduce this violence.”

This post has been updated.

Brandon Weigel

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