BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- In anticipation of an uptick in crime during the summer months, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison released a short-term deployment strategy Friday focusing patrols on small areas in the city's nine police districts that historically have seen high rates of violence.
Police used data on gun-related incidents over the last five years to determine where crime has been the highest.
Officers in district action teams [DATs] will be deployed to the zones, which are no larger than four square blocks and make up just 5% of the city's geography but 33% of the locations for gun violence over the last five years, Harrison said.
"A narrow and more structured focus by DATs along with directed patrol enables BPD to be more agile, targeted, and efficient in our ability to reduce, deter, and prevent crime," Harrison wrote.
Friday's report comes weeks after a group of city council members called on police to step up neighborhood deployments in the aftermath of several high-profile homicides and shootings.
Councilman Eric Costello, chair of the Ways & Means Committee, cited the murders of 17-year-old Jasmine Brunson, killed on the night of his junior prom, and 38-year-old Angel Smith, who was seven months pregnant, and her fiancé, and a midday shooting where 60 rounds were fired, leaving one man dead and three injured, as part of an "unacceptable level of violence.
In a letter to police, the lawmakers placed a deadline of June 3 for a short-term crime plan, four days before top brass are scheduled to appear before the committee as part of the budgeting process.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is we need foot patrol in these areas, cars riding in this area, not three days after or week after," said Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, vice president of the council. "We need consistency, and that's not that's not happening now."
Costello stressed the council members' call to action was not a criticism of Mayor Brandon Scott's attempts to address the root causes of violence.
"Those root causes specifically revolve around inadequate K-12 public education and a lack of economic opportunity. Those are the reasons that we have crime in the city," he said. "And I don't think there is anyone on the council that disagrees with attacking those issues with a sense of urgency, but we also have to address the issue of crime that is plaguing our community right now."
At the end of May, two teenagers were shot near Harborplace, one of them fatally. Harrison said about 20 officers were in the area when the shooting happened, but that did not deter the attack.
And in a separate incident, an 83-year-old woman was hit in the arm by a stray bullet while in bed in her Northwest Baltimore home.
Under the plan released Friday, 24 additional officers will be deployed in multiple zones along the waterfront -- an area covering Federal Hill Park to the south and wrapping around the water to Harbor East -- plus four sergeants and one lieutenant. Three squads made up of a sergeant and six officers will be stationed at multiple intersections along Pratt Street.
Some of the other areas of focus for police: parts of the McElderry Park and Ellwood Park/Monument neighborhoods in Southeast Baltimore, an area of the Belair-Edison neighborhood south of the Herring Run in Northeast Baltimore, an area of Central Park Heights southwest of Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore, a stretch of Penn-North between North Avenue and Mondawmin Mall in West Baltimore, and a cluster of neighborhoods in East Baltimore that includes Oliver, Greenmoun West and South Clifton Park.
Harrison said police are stepping up arrests through the Warrant Apprehension Task Force, a multi-agency effort to clear open warrants for homicides, non-fatal shootings, robberies, burglaries and other offenses. The BPD has received an additional $3.25 million in state funding for the task force.
Jalen Bond, 18, has lived in Baltimore his entire life and said he is troubled by the rise in violence.
"Even if I walk to a nearby store, I feel like someone could walk up and kill me at any moment," he said. "As long as I've been here, there's always been crime. It seems like as the years go on it has progressively gotten worse."
But he told WJZ he "absolutely" has faith things will get better. Bond said leaders must act.
"There are a lot of words being said but not enough action to back up those words," he said.
Costello sent a letter to Harrison last month asking for updates on a series of department initiatives, such as civlianizing positions, to increase the number officers on the streets and for head-counts of officers working on task forces with federal agencies.
"At what point do we say is enough is enough and government must intervene to stop the bloodshed?" he asked Friday.
In a 10-page letter to Costello, Harrison noted many of the initiatives were already underway.
Police provided detailed plans for each district and plans to increase the visibility of officers while dealing with shortages.
Harrison noted the homicide clearance rate was currently 42.1%, up from 31.6% in 2019.
He said greater accountability in overtime spending has led to a 35% decrease in overtime spending compared to 2019. But Harrison also noted more than 300 hours of overtime will be spent in each district each week from June to September to get a handle on crime.
The commissioner said they are working with federal and state partners. He listed six FBI agents, 30 ATF agents, 10 members of the DEA, 10-15 Baltimore County detectives, and 10-20 Maryland State Police troopers working with the BPD on various initiatives to reduce crime.
Many are focused on serving warrants on the most violent individuals.
Earlier this week, Costello said there may need to be a change in personnel when it comes to public safety. Hellgren asked him on Friday if Harrison should step down.
"Look, I'm wildly frustrated, and I think my frustration reflects the frustration of the 60,000 people I represent. People are really upset right now. Ultimately, personnel decisions are up to the mayor. What I do know is what is currently happening is not working. We need to ensure that the departments are doing everything humanly possible to address public safety throughout our communities," he said.
He had not seen the crime plan and commissioner's letter at the time of the interview because it had not been released but said, "I look forward to reviewing it in excruciating detail over the weekend and then discussing it with those respective agencies on Monday and Tuesday of next week."
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