The Southeast police district has had a busy couple of weeks. Once the shock of protests of riots died down, the district was stricken with an outbreak of shootings, some of which resulted in homicides.
Major Deron Garrity was, and remains, in direct center of the action. He flew one of the helicopters during the riots and looting throughout the city on Monday, April 27.
“It was something I’ve never seen in my career and it’s something I hope I never see again. It was bad,” said Garrity about the experience. He spent over 20 hours in the air over three days. He said that having the helicopters, however disruptive and noisy they may have been to residents, were important to supplementing the patrols. It allowed them a larger view which let them see what was happening blocks away so they knew where to direct traffic flow.
He said a lot of the anti-police sentiment expressed during this time has weighed heavily on the department.
“I’m doing fine, I’m more concerned about the officers and how they’re doing. A lot of police take things to heart. They need to realize this is a business and things are going to happen outside of out control and we can’t take it personally.”
Garrity said that officers get tunnel-vision when they only see the negative public reaction. However, he said that most of the negativity and distrust was confined to the west-side and support for the police has come pouring in from the Southeast.
And a lot of this support has been delicious.
“I hope this never happens again because of the amount of food that the public brought us, we had a tremendous amount of people bringing up food, water , drinks, and specialties dishes from the Greek and Hispanic community, I mean, you name it, we had it,” Garrity said of all the refreshment that have come in.
He said that the recreation room where they stored the food was packed, “we had food up to here!” he said, gesturing to shoulder-height. On a door in the rec room is a collage of letters of support and thanks from residents.
“It’s physically impossible to thank the community enough.”
Diana Pons is a Highlandtown resident who helped assemble these gifts, along with Crissy Suit.
“The whole thing was for the police to know that we have their back and that we support them regardless of what is happening In any type of a career, there’s always a few people that are bad apples, and the news only focuses on that, so I want them to know that even when all this craziness is going on, the community is supporting them,” said Pons.
Pons and Suit spread the work through social media and Pons called the turn out “unbelieveable”. She said the generosity of neighbors was good encouragement for the officers.
“You should’ve seen the smiles on their faces,” she said, “They really are a good group of people.”
This isn’t the first time Southeast has given back to the police district. A few years ago, their station underwent an extreme renovations due to donations for local businesses, politicians, and residents. Garrity excitedly talks about their outside pavilion with flat-screen TVs and grilles. On Sunday, May 27, the community hosted a cook-out on the pavilion for the officers.
The station also has a state-of-the-art gym and a complete kitchen and other comforts, like a washing machine and roomy lockers thanks to donations.
“We’re civil servants, we serve the public. the public doesn’t owe us anything,” he said of recent support, “It’s a shame we had to get this point for people to come forward, but I mean, it’s a good thing out of such a bad thing.”
Garrity explained that the uptick in violence in the area was due to the lack of resources. Many officers in Southeast were deployed to west Baltimore leading to a lack of officers on street. He is referencing the extreme increase in shootings across the city, over 9 a day. He said criminal are taking advantage of the decreased police presence.
He brought up the case of Mr. Joe, who was killed outside his market and deli on Highland Avenue, calling the suspects “cowards”. He did say that there are several leads on the case and that it is moving forward. Anyone with information is still urged to call the Homicide Unit at 410-396-2100.
Despite the shootings, Garrity said that burglaries are down and that crime is starting to settle back to normal as police return from the west. He points to a map in his office that’s covered in thumbtacks that represent a crime and where it occurred. He uses this visual to find patterns in crime and to determine where to send patrols.
On Saturday, June 20, the Southeast police district will host a Partnership Family Day at Patterson Park which will host the annual police vs. community softball game. Garrity said that the event was planned long before the events of the past weeks and couldn’t have come at a better time.
by GIANNA DECARLO EDITOR@BALTIMOREGUIDE.COM