Citizen action is crucial to stopping violence, say police and officials

Citizens’ willingness to talk is the key to slowing down or ending the violence in Baltimore, say local police and elected officials.

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At Monday night’s Southeast District Police Community Relations Council meeting, Captain Kim Burris, second in command at the Southeast District, said that as of Monday, July 1, there were 13 more homicides and 21 more shootings than there had been in 2012 as of July 1.

During a 10-day period beginning with the first weekend of summer, June 22 and 23, the “Baltimore Sun” reported that there were 16 homicides and about 40 shootings in the city.

“You’ve all seen the news,” said Burris.

Of those incidents, there were three shootings in the Southeast—two near or in O’Donnell Heights and one in the Perkins Homes area. Just outside the district, four were killed and one was wounded in a shootout on the 700 block of Kenwood Ave. Last weekend, a man shot his wife in Highlandtown, police say.

First District Councilman Jim Kraft told the Community Relations Council that the City Council had recently met with newly-appointed Police Commissioner Anthony Batts on the spate of violence. Kraft relayed a message:

“We are not going to be able to arrest ourselves out of this problem,” he said, adding that citizens need to be willing to talk to the police.

“Unless the person that knows the guy or gal next door that has a gun in their house lets somebody know, then nobody will be able to do anything,” Kraft said. “Unless the grandma whose grandson is dealing drugs out of the kitchen tells somebody…then relatives will be talking about what a fine boy that grandson was, and he will be lying on his back in an alley.”

Officer Rosa Ramirez of the Neighborhood Services Unit said that the Police Department’s recent faith-based initiative, in which the police have increased their involvement with local churches, has been surprisingly effective. A recent motorcade through the McElderry Park neighborhood lifted the morale of residents, she reported.

“They are so involved, and they just think it’s such a good idea,” Ramirez said.

She said that while it has been historically difficult to convince citizens to give police officers incriminating information, pastors are a different story.

“People in that area that don’t want to talk will talk to pastors,” she said.

State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein said that his office has taken several measures to improve the conviction rate, including collaborating with law enforcement to establish surveillance and obtain testimony. The State’s Attorney’s Office has also been prosecuting “so-called one-witness cases,” which he said have been historically avoided by prosecutors.

by Erik Zygmont

One Comment on "Citizen action is crucial to stopping violence, say police and officials"

  1. Anonymous July 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    It is not all about guns. Guns do not kill people. People kill people. It’s about the City’s representative and the police that do not do their jobs. It’s not up to the people to become your unpaid spies and report. It’s up to the city’s paid police department and the representatives to enforce the laws. Instead of the courts allowing those criminals to walk out the door do something about them. Don’t just release them into the public to do more crime. It doesn’t take a rocket scientists to figure out what the problem is. What happened to the days when Crime was so low. What happened to the competent people in charge that were there in the 60′s and 70′s. Once you let things get so out of control it’s tough to get it back under control. Get out there and do what you have to do to stop crime and become the successful city you once were. Put police back on the beat. Instead of riding around in cars, stopping at every coffee shop and restaurant in town to see what is free and finding a shady place to stop and consume the freebies, I’m sure the people who pay their salaries expect them to get off their butts and do their job. If they can’t control it then bring in Marshall law. Get the city back and keep it.

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