The recent rash of homicides and non-fatal shootings are a concern of all. Below is a memo from Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts outlining steps taken to address this challenge.
Dear Community Leader:
As you know, the City of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department are in the midst of a challenging time. Following a period of civil unrest, we have been experiencing an increase of the pace of violent crime, most notably homicides and shootings. Please be assured that the Baltimore Police Department is moving aggressively to both address the increase in violence, as well to modernize and better equip ourselves for the future.
The increased pace of crime has been particularly prevalent in neighborhoods historically impacted by violent crime. In response, BPD has re-allocated several veteran leaders to the Western District that have experience and relationships in that District, including a new District Commander and Captain. Throughout the City, officers are being deployed in both mobile and foot capacities in neighborhoods. The Department is also placing a high emphasis on key commercial corridors. Officers are being asked to maintain a visible and consistent presence, as well as to engage in positive interactions with community members. Increased visibility will serve as a deterrent to criminals, and quality and positive communication with the community will help us to prevent and solve crimes. Additionally, the Police Commissioner has tasked Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Russell, currently in command of the Community Partnership Division, to temporarily work out of the Western District full-time to re-establish a productive relationship with members of the community.
The Department has announced the creation of a new Community Engagement Division that will encompass the Department’s current Community Partnerships Division, the Media Relations Section, and the Office of Government Affairs. This Division will be solely focused on implementing a strategic approach to strengthening and growing the bond between our Department and members of the community. As a first step, the Police Commissioner is engaging the Community Relations Councils and talking to community members in each of the nine police districts to better educate the Department on the concerns and needs of the community. The Division will also be working to find ways for the police and the community to work together to solve crime. For example, BPD will be seeking to enhance the awards offered through Metro Crime Stoppers to individuals that provide tips that help the Department solve crimes.
BPD has also taken steps to ensure that the Department is well-prepared for any potential unrest or violence in the future. Since the civil unrest ended, there has been extensive training for both officers and commanders in mobile field force tactics and crowd control. We are also better equipping our officers so they can handle large crowds safely. We are also pro-actively working with our local law enforcement partners on mutual aid communication and planning. Our mutual aid agreements are being updated to ensure rapid response. These actions will ensure that the Department will be faster and better equipped to safely address any future unrest.
Please also be assured that the Department is aggressively working to hold individuals that committed crimes during the unrest accountable for their actions. BPD detectives and our partners at the ATF and DEA have launched an investigation task force to bring state and federal charges against individuals that committed crimes that harmed officers, businesses, and people in our community. Some people have already been arrested as a result of their crimes. More charges are coming in the near future.
The BPD remains laser-focused on protecting communities from violence. However, that goal cannot be accomplished without help from the community, from each citizen to community and business leaders. Thank you for your continued support during this challenging time. Together, we can ensure that Baltimore remains a safe place to live, work, and visit.
Anthony W. Batts