On Monday, the Southeast Police district held a public meeting about crime prevention and safety measures for residents.
Captain George Clinedinst spoke about the uptick in robberies in the district and how vigilance can prevent more from happening. He said in the past 28 days there have been over 60 robberies, an increase from recent months. Clinedinst stated most occurred from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“The trend that I’m seeing and other officers are seeing is that people are being followed home from wherever they’re coming from by a group of juveniles and being strong armed, some of them have guns, others don’t” said Clinedinst.
He said that most of the victims have been Hispanic males. Officer Anthony Zayas said that criminals mainly target this demographic due to their hesitancy in calling the police. Zayas said the victims often worry that the police will investigate their immigration status if they report a crime. He said that they shouldn’t worry and encouraged them to call so they can put an end to the robberies.
Clinedinst said the best advice to prevent theft is to simply pay attention to your surroundings. He compared the distractions of walking and texting on a cell phone to texting while driving.
“Spread this information, tell your neighbors, you have to be vigilant, you have to watch your backs. I’m going to keep driving this home until robberies go down,” he said.
Clinedinst said they have made 22 arrests in the robberies so far.
“The closure rate is not where we want it to be. It never will be, and that’s the reality,” he said when asked by a resident about the closure rate for these arrests.
Clinedinst said the district started a robbery overtime initiative that is mostly focused on the Patterson Park, Fell’s Point, and upper Butchers Hill areas. He said the effort has been successful, but that the police force is short-handed and wishes they had more officers to deploy for this purpose.
This lead to a question about reports that many local officers are leaving Baltimore and retiring in light of the riots in April. Clinedinst confirmed this. To make up for this, he said they are making an effort to improve the officers they do have by teaching them how to be more observant when investigating.
“We’re trying to fill the gap. We’re trying to make newer patrol officers more investigative, to see the bigger picture and not just come in and take a picture and move on,” said Sgt. Featherstone, who believe this is working and making officers more aware in their reporting.
Part of this awareness comes from understanding the city’s resources, something they are teaching to 40 new officers that will begin in the city in October. Clinedinst said some aren’t from Baltimore or even Maryland, so they need a crash course into the city’s history, such as how to utilize the 311 service.
“What our department is really trying to start to do is take the approach of teaching how to effectively police a community even if you don’t know anything about it,” Clinedinst said, stating that they will learn how to city operates and all aspects of Baltimore life, not just the crime. “If the officers are unaware of that, how can they properly communicate with the community and get out there and talk to them?”
He then spoke about how the district aims to have 16 officers on patrol for three consecutive shifts. Many officers do so during overtime and are often tired, something that criminals know and use to their advantage. He said call volume is high which makes foot patrol, which residents have called for, more difficult. Despite this, he said he saw a marked improvement of patrols and officers getting out of their cars and interacting with the community.
The next topic was stolen vehicles.
Clinedinst said there were reports of 59 stolen vehicles in the last 28 days.
“The main vehicles they are trying to take are Jeep Liberties,” he said.
He warned that Dodge and Chrysler vehicles are targeted because they are the easiest to steal, so owners of such cars should be especially careful.
He encouraged residents to purchase a club lock that is visible through their windows.
A resident asked Clinedinst about the increase of shootings in the city.
“I don’t want to jinx our district and say where we’re at, but we are by far the lowest,” he said. “As far as why it’s happening, a lot of it is gang related, they’re battling for territory and settling historic disputes.”
He then said that gangs were not a problem in the Southeast and the rare shooting that occurs here is usually an isolated or domestic incident.
“When people move into these areas, when they’re brand new to Southeast Baltimore, let’s be neighborly and reach out to them and let them know what’s going on, bring them to these meetings and help them get engaged,” he said.
Some more prevention tips he disclosed were to leave porch lights on overnight. Also, he said to remove large flower pots from windowsills because criminals often hide behind them. Some attendants at the meeting suggested installing a fake security camera and a “Beware of Dog” sign. He said to secure air conditioning units, especially if you’re on the first floor since thieves often sneak in through them.
“Anything that can be a deterrent to criminals will make a difference,” concluded Clinedinst.
by GIANNA DECARLO