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Baltimore Mayor Announces Pilot Program To Direct Some 911 Calls To Mental Health Professionals

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore residents are fed up with the violence in the city and shootings nearly every day.  The number of homicides has risen more than 15% over this time last year.

"[The violence] has been happening so long, and it's just getting worse," said Denise Mack who has lived in Baltimore her entire life. "You've got to go to funerals, got to see your son or nephew lying there. It's bad. I just wish everyone would get themselves together."

Another woman who lives off Wilkens Avenue asked that WJZ not show her face. Her home is near where two teenagers were shot earlier this week.

"People are dying right and left," she said. "Every other day you hear somebody shooting somebody."

Efraim Gordon is among the latest victims. Gordon was visiting Baltimore from Israel for a wedding when he was shot and killed early Monday.

His family raised money to send his body back to Israel for burial and promises they will not rest until they solve his killing. There is a $30,000 reward.

"We are not going to leave any stone unturned," Gordon's family said in a new statement.

On Tuesday, two women were beaten inside their West Baltimore store with a cinderblock.

Mayor Brandon Scott wants police to focus on violent offenders and said officers should not be handling calls for people having behavioral health issues.

He announced a new pilot program to divert those 911 calls - averaging about 36 a day - to specialized counselors.

"Think about the sheer number of hours that our police officers are actually out dealing with something that they're not trained to do, versus being out there going after someone who's committed an armed carjacking," he said.

The new 911 program will start next month and will not cost the city additional dollars, as Baltimore already has contracts with the nonprofits providing the counselors.

"You wouldn't call a lawyer to deliver a baby, and we shouldn't call upon our police to have to respond all these other situations," Senator Chris Van Hollen said.

Scott and Gov. Larry Hogan will talk crime next week at a meeting in Annapolis.

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