Just yesterday we talked about the City of Baltimore and how they are currently on track to break yet another record for murders this year. As I said at the time, this is not an impossible situation to address, but it will take time, hard work, a lot of resources and, perhaps more important than all the rest, the will to make some tough calls and get the job done.
Now we’re learning that the city’s leaders have been working on a plan to begin to address the crisis. In a welcome announcement, an officer from the DEA sketched out the plans for a permanent strike force being established in Charm City, combining federal, state and municipal resources that will target gang leaders, major illegal drug distributors and the most violent criminals on the streets. The details make it sound as if this will be a serious (and much needed) ongoing effort, but questions remain about some of the key players involved. (Baltimore Sun)
A new federal “strike force” comprised of detectives, prosecutors and federal agents from across the region will begin work soon on a long-planned effort to target Baltimore drug gangs and their Mexican and Dominican suppliers, who have been flooding the city with heroin, fentanyl and other illicit drugs for years.
Hoping to reduce the record number of homicides and overdoses in the city, the team already has begun working a handful of cases together, and this week secured nearly 75,000 square feet of office space in Southwest Baltimore so its members can move into a shared headquarters. Officials say that will speed up the identification, investigation and prosecution of some of Baltimore’s most violent gang leaders.
“We’re teaming up to go after the bad actors in this city who are threatening to destabilize it,” said Don Hibbert, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Baltimore field office and a key organizer behind the effort. “Simple as that.”
This is all being organized under the U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program. The list of talent they are bringing in sounds impressive, including permanently assigned officers and agents from not only the state and municipal police departments but the DEA, BATFE, FBI, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
I’m not going to throw cold water over these efforts because it sounds like they’re building a serious crime-fighting team here. The one area of concern, however, is the involvement of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. You may recall her disastrous involvement in the city’s woes starting after the Freddie Gray riots. Since that time, she’s generally shown more interest in prosecuting police officers than gang members.
But who knows? Perhaps the seriousness of Baltimore’s current murder epidemic has finally sunk in and she’s ready to start putting some of the worst of the bad guys behind bars for decades. It’s long been claimed that a significant percentage of the murders in that city are being committed by a relatively small number of serial offenders from the various gangs. If they can bring them in and lock them up until they are retirement age, the just might start bringing the violent crime rates down and returning some sense of normalcy to the community.
But the other missing piece of the puzzle is the resistance of both municipal and state legislators to pass tougher gun crime laws. Until that happens, this strike force may simply become a larger version of the revolving door Baltimore currently has running in their jails.