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Public safety took center stage during Baltimore's National Night Out

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison
Bethany Raja
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison

On Tuesday night, the 500 block of Wilson Street was buzzing with a crowd of Baltimore residents and law enforcement officers who gathered for National Night Out. The annual event began in 1984, to bring law enforcement officers and community members together.

This year, there have been more than 200 homicides in Baltimore which is on track to outpace last year which had 300 homicides. Efforts to curb such crime include Mayor Brandon Scott's comprehensive violence prevention plan.

The three pillars of that plan include: a public health approach to violence, community engagement through interagency collaboration but also evaluation and accountability.

Scott said those three things need to happen in order to fulfill his administration’s mission of a safer Baltimore.

“It takes a genuine community effort of all of us to take responsibility for what’s happening in our neighborhoods and change things for the better,” he said. “We can strengthen our neighborhoods and pave the way towards a Baltimore where everyone feels safe and protected, regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code.”

National Night Out is an example of the partnership to improve public safety in the city, said Shantay Jackson, director of the mayor’s office of neighborhood safety and engagement.

“To me, this is one of the most significant events that our city hosts every year, because of the way that we show up as a village, united, working together to reimagine public safety across our city,” Jackson said.

The event helps bridge the gap between law enforcement and key community members. She said her office works daily with the Baltimore Police Department on the group violence reduction strategy, neighborhood policing plan pilot program, the side-step pre-arrest diversion pilot and their victim’s services program that invests in resources for victims of gun violence.

“We prioritize community healing and trauma informed care and responsiveness, to round out the holistic approaches that we’re taking to public safety,” she said. “The entire weight of Baltimore is what it’s going to take for us to shift the trajectory of the city.”

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison thanked the law enforcement officers who came to the event and also community members who came.

“When we talk about police community relations, I have stopped distinguishing between the two, because they are not separate,” Harrison said. “Police, community relations are simply community relations, because we are part of the community we serve.”

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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