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Harrison Calls For More Witness Cooperation To Combat Baltimore's Crime Problem

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore City's violent crime is in a spin cycle, affecting some of the city's youngest residents.

A 16-year-old male was shot and killed yesterday. A 17-year-old male was shot in the chest tonight. Authorities say he's listed in critical condition at a local hospital.

The city's ongoing crime crisis has prompted Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to reach out to the public, urging them to say something if they see something.

Harrison expressed his frustration with city crime at a press conference on Tuesday.

City residents say they are frustrated too.

Roshenda Murray is one of many mothers who lost her children to city violence. She told WJZ that no one would talk to the police when her son, Rodrick Antonio, was murdered in 2012 at the age of 18.

And he was even surrounded by friends when he died, she said.

"He was a few months away from getting his high school diploma and he was murdered right in front of my house," Murray said.

People aren't speaking up, and that is preventing the Baltimore Police Department from solving crime, Harrison said.

Murray says it's because they're scared for their lives. If they talk about the crime, then the same thing is going to happen to them.

Although there have only been 46 days in the new year, there have already been 47 homicides in the city. In fact, as of Tuesday afternoon, Baltimore had recorded 47 homicides and 83 non-deadly shootings in 2022, compared to 38 homicides and 67 non-deadly shootings at the same time last year, according to figures provided by city police.

"This is out of control," Dr. Thomas Scalea, the Shock Trauma chief said. "It's so demoralizing."

With homicides and shootings in 2022 outpacing last year's tallies, Harrison touted hundreds of recent arrests Tuesday, saying police are "aggressively pursuing" violent offenders.

Despite those successes, Harrison said investigators need more cooperation from residents in criminal investigations, and he challenged witnesses to come forward and share what they know to help authorities bring violent criminals to justice.

"There are people out there sometimes standing right there and not only not attempting to stop this behavior but also being very uncooperative in helping us hold these cowardly criminals accountable," Harrison said. "In order to be truly successful in the fight against crime, we all have to work together."

Harrison said the police department has a 44.7% homicide clearance rate this year, up from 34.2% for the same period in 2021. Meanwhile, the clearance rate for non-deadly shootings (22.9%) is down compared to last year (29.2%).

The commissioner said police continue to solve violent crimes. In February alone, he pointed out, police have made 510 arrests, 11 of them for homicides, and they have served 280 warrants, including two for murder and five for attempted murder.

Harrison singled out warrants recently issued for the arrest of Marquise Henry Jr., a 20-year-old suspected in two stabbings and a 13-year-old's rape. He said a detective was in the process of obtaining another warrant for the man's arrest.

"This is our due diligence to let the people of Baltimore know that we're not just sitting idly or standing by," the commissioner said. "We're relentlessly pursuing violent offenders who commit violence in our city every day."

But plenty of violent crimes remain unsolved, including the shooting that killed Chesley Patterson, the general manager of La Scala Ristorante in Fells Point.

"It's so sad that good people die in this city and that criminals run this city," Nino Germano, the owner of La Scala Ristorante said.

That same night, Cheryl McCormack, a mother delivering food for Door Dash was also shot and killed.

"They tried to take my wife's wallet and her purse she wouldn't give it up and they shot her," McCormack's husband said.

Baltimore City has come under criticism in recent months over its violent crime problem, with critics ranging from frustrated residents to Gov. Larry Hogan, who pledged $150 million in funding to support law enforcement statewide.

Harrison said it will take a community effort to get the violent crime problem under control.

"It will require people who are out there standing right there when crimes are committed to help us hold those people accountable," the commissioner said. "Because if nothing changes, then nothing changes."

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