Baltimore Mayor: Hey, we should probably do something about all of these gang shootings

AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File

Baltimore, Maryland recently had more than thirty people killed in shootings in a single week. For most cities in the United States, that would be an alarming statistic that generated huge headlines and a public outcry. Sadly, in Baltimore these days it’s just another day that ends in a “Y.” The city is on track to set yet another record for murders and shootings, something that’s happened every year for quite a while now. But in a sign that even Baltimore’s residents are reaching their limits, there were public demands for accountability and answers. This led to a public meeting with three of the city’s top officials at a church in West Baltimore on Monday of this week. While residents were demanding action, the Mayor, the City State’s Attorney, and the Police Chief didn’t have much to say that they hadn’t heard before. And, of course, none of them were ready to take any blame for their own policies failing to keep people alive. One of the residents noted that when one of the Fire Department’s regular assignments is to wash down the blood on the sidewalks, something has gone very wrong indeed. (CBS Baltimore)

Firefighters washed the blood from the 900 block of North Gilmor Street. The 26-year-old man shot multiple times there is one of more than 30 people gunned down in Baltimore City over the past week, and many across the city are fed up.

Baltimore City’s mayor, police commissioner and state’s attorney met at New Shiloh Baptist Church in the heart of West Baltimore Monday to lay out a holistic violence reduction plan. They admit current strategies are not working.

“Past public safety practices have failed to keep our communities safe from violence and harm. We cannot arrest our way out of a culture of violence,” Commissioner Michael Harrison said.

Mayor Brandon Scott, formerly the President of the City Council, ran for office on a promise to do something to lower the murder rate. It’s only gone up since he was sworn in. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who we’ve written about here many times in the past, has permanently ended prosecutions of “low-level crimes” in Baltimore, and she showed up to tell everyone that she has no plans to change her approach.

One comment from Police Commissioner Michael Harrison really stands out as being an example of the mindset among the city’s leadership. “We cannot arrest our way out of a culture of violence.”

Whether you believe that statement or not, the fact remains that Baltimore’s elected officials, for many years now, have shown more interest in arresting their own police officers than the gang bangers who effectively own and operate Baltimore. (HBO’s series The Wire was more of a documentary than a drama, for those not familiar with the situation.) You may not be able to “arrest your way out of a culture of violence,” but you could at least try arresting some of the triggermen from the gangs and actually keep them locked up for a long time.

Despite all of the evidence of how badly Baltimore has deteriorated, Scott and Mosby were back in public on Monday talking about the need to “engage people” on a social basis to help guide them away from a path leading them to join the gangs and engage in violence. They’ve been saying the same thing for years, as did their predecessors, and the gangs have simply taken that as an invitation to go hog wild.

Having failed to learn from the city’s recent history, it seems obvious that this crew is doomed to repeat it. The gangs are not interested in talking or taking meetings with your social coordinators. They have business to take care of and a lot of that business takes place at gunpoint. Getting cooperation from the public is an ongoing challenge because people are too frightened to speak up or, in some cases, even leave their homes. One woman at the meeting on Monday told CBS News (speaking anonymously) that she was afraid to walk the two blocks from her home to the bus stop. She also wouldn’t speak out in public “because they come after the witnesses.” Snitches get stitches (if they’re lucky).

After the opening remarks from the three officials at the meeting, the rest of the event was closed to the press. Does that sound like a municipal leadership team that’s interested in transparency and engaging with the public? Obviously not. The last remarks from the Mayor seem to demonstrate how completely out of touch he remains.

“Throughout my life, we have failed to keep communities safe and keep people alive. We must do better—and I do mean we. Zero tolerance was appalling and did not work. The drug war did not work. Trying to arrest our way out of these problems did not work,” Mayor Brandon Scott said.

What Scott is really saying is that “enforcing the law did not work.” The problem is that enforcing the law actually has worked. The murder rates were not always this high, and the lower-level crimes that lead to worse things weren’t always as prevalent. When the cops were fully funded and allowed to do their jobs, they at least kept a lid on a fair portion of the gang violence. But Baltimore’s leaders have gutted and demoralized the Police Department and the gangs have noticed. And yet, as long as the citizens of Charm City keep electing this same pack of clowns year after year and expecting different results, there’s not much more to be done for them, I’m afraid.