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Baltimore Police Chief touts gun seizures, homicide reduction in pilot area

Michael Harrison was sworn in as the Baltimore Police Department's 41st Commissioner on March 12, 2019. (official BPD photo)
Michael Harrison was sworn in as the Baltimore Police Department's 41st Commissioner on March 12, 2019.

Baltimore City leaders announced the results of a two month long investigation, about a dozen people with ties to a social network known as ‘princess plaza’ were arrested in recent days on gun and drug related charges. Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said during a press conference that the investigation into the network was launched in June after a notable increase in violent crimes in the western district. The group was active around Princess Plaza at Edmondson and members were involved in five instances of attempted murder, police said.

The effort is one result of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy where police attempt to curb gang related shootings by arrests and gun seizures.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is the third mayor to roll out such a plan. Former mayor Kurt Schmoke tried it in the late 1990s and Stephanie Rawlings Blake did the same in 2014.

“Since piloting the mayor’s group violence reduction strategy in the western district earlier this year, we continue seeing a notable reduction of gun violence incidents, to include a 33% reduction in homicides year to date,” Harrison said.

This year, there have been more than 220 homicides in Baltimore which is on track to outpace last year which had 300 homicides. But there was a decline across the pilot area of the western district.

Police seized various weapons such as six handguns, seven other firearms, ammunition in addition to fentanyl, heroin, marijuana and crack cocaine. Police confiscated $21,000 in cash and several cell phones.

All of the ‘social network’ members had prior arrests, including gun violence, assault, attempted murder and murder, he said.

The unit in partnership with local, state and law enforcement partners and community organizations are using on the ground intelligence to direct the police effort to identify and apprehend individuals in groups responsible for committing violent crimes. Each week the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement meets with the police department to review any shootings in the western district.

“We know that public safety is a shared responsibility and the path to successfully reducing violence involves more than just law enforcement alone,” Harrison said.

The police department has made more arrests to date than the same time last year, which are attributed to those partnerships, he said.

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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