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BPD Commissioner Harrison Unveils New Crime Plan

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison released his new sweeping crime reduction plan Thursday that calls for improved response time and distributing more patrol officers in high-crime “micro zones” and includes visions for reforming community-police relationships.

His plan debuted about half a year after Harrison arrived in Baltimore. He was sworn in in mid March, and is the fourth commissioner since 2015. 

Harrison took charge during a tumultuous period for the department. He is dealing with a rising homicide rate as well as the disgrace from the Gun Trace Task Force’s fall. The department is also operating under a federal consent decree, after the Department of Justice found its policing regularly violated civil rights, which disproportionately affected the city's black residents.

The federal investigation was sparked by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray from spinal injuries sustained in police custody.  

“We all know there is a lot of work to do to make the Baltimore Police Department the department all want it to be,” Harrison said. “I'm certain that when working together — the police and the community as one — we will get there.”

Here are three big takeaways from the plan.   

More officers in “focused patrol areas”

The plan requires foot patrol officers to focus on “micro zones” that represent just 5 percent of the city’s geography, but where 33 percent of violent crimes have occurred over the past five years. These zones were determined after analysis of crime history on all city gun-related incidents, such as shootings and robberies. 

Credit Baltimore Police Department
The focused patrol area's "micro zones."

“A narrow and more structured focus by the DATs [district action teams] along with directed patrol enables BPD to be more agile, targeted, and efficient in our ability to reduce, deter, and prevent crime,” the plan states.

Improved response times to serious calls

Police will be required to respond to “highest priority calls where life or property is in immediate danger” within 10 minutes or less.

“We will continuously evaluate this metric over the next year to ensure that it is in line with national best practices and remains an attainable goal for Baltimore give its density, geography, and our personnel staffing,” the plan states.

Expanding Harrison’s vision for improved community-police relationships

The plan says officers should, when not responding to calls, spend a third of their shift talking  with city residents and engaging in other “proactive efforts."

It also says the department is working to create a “ ‘hub’ to connect the various faith communities, neighborhood organizations, and non-profit service providers to ensure that all organizations in the city are able to actively and effectively contribute to our violence reduction efforts.” 

In addition, some detective units have been assigned to work out of local districts rather than BPD headquarters.

The union that represents rank and file officers congratulated Harrison on the release of the plan.

“Having such a plan is important for all of us, going forward,” the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement

The statement noted, however, that the FOP had not yet seen the plan’s documents.

“Once we have had the opportunity to further learn and understand the plan, a statement may be released,” the FOP said.

Shareese Churchill, Governor Larry Hogan’s spokeswoman, said the govern has “long urged city leaders to present a comprehensive crime plan, and now that one has been put forward, we look forward to discussing it with Commissioner Harrison, Mayor Young, and city officials.”

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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