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Scott Introduces Public Safety Draft Plan To Prioritize Public Health, Asks For Resident Input

Mayor Brandon Scott speaks at a Monday news conference.
Charm TV
Mayor Brandon Scott speaks at a Monday news conference.

Mayor Brandon Scott released a draft of his violence reduction plan, which prioritizes public health, on Monday.

Mayor Brandon Scott called for public input on a new draft of his violence reduction plan released Monday afternoon. The plan seeks to decrease killings by addressing the social causes of health and crime.

The Democrat, who has long called to address gun violence through an approach that emphasizes public health initiatives rather than a bolstered police presence, said that the Baltimore Police Department cannot stem the tide of violence alone.

“If the hardworking women and men of BPD were the sole solution to our violence problem, Baltimore would be the safest city in America based upon how we've operated during my lifetime,” he said. “But they are not the sole solution.”

The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, which Scott created in December, published the draft plan. A workgroup convened by City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa and consisting of city and state agencies, local advocacy groups and federal government partners wrote the plan.

It has a three-pronged public health approach: address the social determinants of health, respond to addiction and mental health needs and make investments to reduce violence. Doing so can bolster health outcomes and reduce violence, Dzirasa said.

“Witnessing violence or living in a violent community is a social determinant of health, and it shapes our lives and overall health outcomes, meaning the environment in which we live, work, role play and worship influences our quality of life,” she said. “Addressing these social determinants of health is crucial to violence prevention.”

Shantay Jackson, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said the plan is an explicit break from past practices that reimagines public safety.

“We understand that real justice is about more than punishment,” she said. “It's also about restoration, about renewal, about healing.”

She pointed to a strategy in the plan to reduce violence by engaging with those who are at the highest risk of being a shooter or being shot to not only to keep them safe but also to provide them with economic opportunities and mental health support, if necessary.

Other strategies include aiming to increase the city’s high school graduation rate, providing communities with emotional support in the wake of shootings and strengthening Safe Streets, a city program that employs ex-offenders to mediate conflicts.

“Addressing the root causes of violent acts creates opportunities for neighborhoods to heal,” she said.

A city law passed when Scott was city council president requires the mayor to create a public safety strategy coordinated across multiple city agencies. “This has been the missing link,” Scott said.

Councilman Mark Conway, chair of the Baltimore City Council Public Safety Committee, said the plan marks a new era in combating crime.

“It’s an era that recognizes the importance of building up communities and addressing social conditions that give rise to crime and instability. An era that acknowledges the importance of smart, constitutional policing, but understands that policing is not a panacea for Baltimore’s issues,” the Democrat said.

Conway will hold a committee hearing next month to invite officials from city agencies including BPD to respond to the plan.

City residents can respond to the plan on MONSE’s website or by attending upcoming virtual feedback events on Facebook. The Scott administration will also ask community and neighborhood associations for feedback.

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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