Will the COVID-19 pandemic convince Baltimore’s criminals to stop shooting each other? Count me as skeptical, to say the least. “We’re not going to tolerate it,” Baltimore mayor Jack Young declared after a night of violence put seven more people into hospitals, calling it “unacceptable” and threatening retribution.
That’s an old song in Baltimore, though, so Young added a new verse. The next bed they “clog up” might have served one of the shooters’ loved ones, Young said:
Commissioner Michael Harrison said the city has seen an uptick in violent crimes since Friday, including a mass shooting Tuesday night — where seven people were shot. Five people were transported to area hospitals via medics and two took private cars to the hospitals for treatment. All seven are in serious but stable condition. …
“I want to reiterate how completely unacceptable the level of violence is that we have seen recently,” Young said. “We will not stand for mass shootings and an increase in crime.”
“For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Young implored. “We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.”
He urged people to put down their guns because “we cannot clog up our hospitals and their beds with people that are being shot senselessly because we’re going to need those beds for people infected with the coronavirus. And it could be your mother, your grandmother or one of your relatives. So take that into consideration.”
The problem in Baltimore over the last couple of years is that the police have not “come after you” or “get you,” and the criminals know it. The fallout from the Freddie Gray case pushed police to dial back their assertiveness in Baltimore, fueled by a consent decree that incentivized a retreat from making arrests. In the absence of community support for police, criminals have become emboldened, and violence has steadily escalated as a result.
That makes Young’s threat to “come after you” sound rather empty, at least without any significant change to police policy and community support for enforcement. That problem didn’t start with the coronavirus, nor will an appeal to civic responsibility in a pandemic solve the problem or even alleviate it. If these perps had any sense of civic responsibility at all, they wouldn’t be spraying neighborhoods with bullets. Rather than sounding tough, Young sounds impotent — and that’s worse than not saying anything at all.