We just passed the five year anniversary of the death of Baltimore gang member Freddie Gray and the subsequent riots that threatened to burn Charm City to the ground. Most of us watched the debacle play out live on our television screens as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had most of her police force stand down while chaos engulfed the streets. Later, trials were held for the six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and subsequent death. This led to the introduction of many supposed “reforms” that were intended to restore public trust in the police. But has anything really changed in the past five years? Reporters from CBS in Baltimore took to the streets this week and interviewed a number of residents near ground zero. The responses were almost entirely the same. It’s the same old Baltimore with the same old problems.

“Five years later after Freddie Gray? I feel as though nothing has changed,” Davon Fletcher said.

“I feel as though everything is still the same, ain’t nothing really change,” Chris Jones said.

“What everyone else watched on television we watched outside our door,” Ericka Alston Buck said. “We watched the National Guard standing with shields.”

Alston Buck operated the Kid Safe Zone in Sandtown-Winchester

“The mass chaos and confusions and fear, it was overwhelming,” she said. “It was overwhelming.”

I suppose, at least from the perspective of the people living in the gang-infested portions of East and West Baltimore, life might not look much different than it did five years ago. There’s still a massive gang violence problem and far too much urban decay. The schools are still failing. The drug trade owns many neighborhoods and the murder rate continues to rise every year. The median income and employment rates for Baltimore’s majority Black population remain far below national averages.

But if you pull the camera lens back a bit, there actually were quite a few changes that took place both during and after the entire Freddie Gray affair. Sadly, most of them have arguably made matters worse in the city rather than better.

All through the riots, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, abetted by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, attempted to rein in the police while letting mobs take over the streets of the city. In the aftermath, they chose to treat their own police like they were the real problem, attempting to prosecute all of the officers who were involved in Gray’s arrest. That attitude of hostility toward the police carried on throughout the tenure of Rawlings-Blake’s successor, Catherine Pugh until she was finally driven from office and convicted on corruption charges.

There is clearly still simmering anger among residents over the entire Freddie Gray incident, something which elected officials have never managed to tamp down, assuming they had any interest in doing so. Let’s all remember that on that fateful day in April of 2015, the cops weren’t picking up Freddie Gray to take him to receive a good citizenship award. He already had an established police record and when he saw two officers on bicycles on his street, he took off running. He was found to have an illegal switchblade on him. That’s why he wound up in that police van.

But none of that seems to matter now. Crime continues to spiral out of control and the police have been making fewer stops and arrests. Many of them have admitted their fears about City Hall not having their back if they wind up in an altercation with a violent suspect. The city’s record-breaking homicide rates stand as testimony to the results of these trends.

All of this might have been either avoided or significantly mitigated if the city’s leaders had communicated more clearly about the circumstances of Gray’s initial arrest and how he wound up in the hospital. And if angry crowds still swarmed into the streets, a strong enough response could have restored order before the mob realized they were actually running the show and began burning the place down.

In the end, this isn’t a story about one gang member who died in custody or even the police involved in his arrest. It’s the story of a complete failure of the municipal government to maintain order, assure the safety of the city’s residents and construct an achievable vision for a Baltimore where individual safety and prosperity could be broadly achieved and organized crime wouldn’t be allowed to flourish. And now it’s Baltimore’s residents that are paying the price for those failures.