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Baltimore Reaches 300 Homicides For Fifth Year In A Row

AP/Steve Ruark

For the fifth year in a row, 300 people have been lost to homicide in Baltimore.

Police confirmed the total on Thursday morning after the death of 21-year-old Donnell Brockington, of Aberdeen, who was found shot in the 2600 block of McElderry Street on Wednesday night. A man and woman, whose names have not been released, were killed in Thursday’s early hours in the 1900 block of McHenry St.

“We’re all disgusted at the murder rate and the number of murders that are happening in this city,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said on WYPR’s Midday program with Tom Hall. “Zero is our goal. Every murder is a tragedy; we don’t want any.” 

The top police official has been on the job since January. He is the former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, where he helped lower violent crime statistics in a police department under a federal consent decree, as is Baltimore’s department.

Harrison attributed his success in New Orleans to a comprehensive crime strategy introduced by former mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2012. It took nearly eight years for that strategy to produce solid and permanent results, Harrison said.

“It is impossible to predict how long it will take in Baltimore now with this team in place,” he said. “What we're doing is changing two cultures: culture in the department and the culture in the community.”

Harrison attributed his success in New Orleans to two factors: prosecutions of multiple offenders and multi-disciplinary strategies that offered young men “a pathway and opportunities to improve their lives so that they wouldn't have to have a life of violent crime.”

Harrison said he and other city leaders are working on a multidisciplinary project that will encompass “not just enforcement, but prevention, intervention, reentry and rehabilitation, so that not only can we enforce on the young men who we know are committing crime, but we can actually offer them opportunities away from crime.”

Other city leaders decried the staggering death toll and called for immediate action. 

“It’s easy to get desensitized in this work and it’s easy to look the other way,” City Council President Brandon Scott said in a statement Thursday. “But it’s our responsibility to hold space for that reality and take action to change it.” 

Scott, a progressive Democrat who is running for mayor, touted his Biennial Comprehensive Crime Reduction Plan, which will have a public hearing next Tuesday.  

“We can’t go months, let alone years, without a regular, coordinated vision for how we deploy our city resources in this fight to make our neighborhoods safe,” he said.

Harrison released a major crime plan over the summer encompassing gun violence, police-community relations, the consent decree and other issues the department faces.

Shortly after that, Mayor Jack Young said his office would release a coordinated response to crime across city agencies, but later said he would follow the commissioner’s plan.

On Wednesday, Young, who is running for mayor, made waves when he told reporters he wasn’t responsible for the murders during a weekly press conference.

“I’m not committing the murders and that’s what people need to understand," Young said. “How can you fault leadership? This has been five years of 300-plus murders. I don’t see it as a lack of leadership.”

Harrison said he and the mayor are on the same page about a multidisciplinary strategy to fight crime across Baltimore.

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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