Baltimore’s huge spike in violent crime following the unrest over the death of Freddie Gray requires explanation. And it’s getting more than one.
With arrests down as violence goes up, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake blames the cops for deliberately sandbagging to get back at her administration for the way it responded to the protests, while the city’s Fraternal Order of Police prefers to paint a picture of a criminal element newly emboldened following the indictment of six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has been a big proponent of a third explanation: the looting of pharmacies during the riots flooded the city with prescription drugs, and an increase in violence has naturally followed.
These narratives are not mutually exclusive, of course, but that doesn’t make the disagreement any less fierce.
The Daily Beast talked to West Baltimore residents to get their take on the situation. The article declares them to essentially agree with the FOP, but even if the tiny sampling they offer is representative, it’s really a mixed bag.
One Sandtown resident reportedly “agreed that criminal elements in the community have become bolder since the April protests.” Others overhearing the conversation “nodded in agreement.” To be sure, the man blamed the mayor.
“It’s the mayor’s fault,” he said. “she told the police to stand down. She could have stopped this if she wanted to.”
Plus, 14-year-old from area told the Daily Beast that killings are up “because people know police aren’t gonna do anything.”
But isn’t it possible that “criminal elements” are “emboldened” less by the indictments than by the widely publicized and — if you live in West Baltimore — probably plainly obvious lack of police presence?
One of the small handful of people quoted or paraphrased confirmed “that police retreated from her neighborhood in the weeks after the April riots.”
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