Watch CBS News

'It's not working,' council member expresses frustration at Baltimore's relentless violence

BALTIMORE -- At least 14 people have been shot in Baltimore since Friday, and the city's homicide total stood at 184 Wednesday compared with 173 at this time last year.

Non-fatal shootings are up as well to 369 compared with 350 at this time in 2021.

Top police brass—including the commissioner—took questions and some criticism from the city council at a public safety hearing Wednesday afternoon. 

"We are currently in year three of a crime strategy that the administration and this police department put in place, and each year homicides and other critical violent crime categories have stayed the same or gone up," city council member Eric Costello said to police commissioner Michael Harrison. "Do you think it's time for this administration and the police department to re-evaluate the current crime plan?" 

"We're always evaluating the crime plan," Harrison replied. 

The commissioner noted the focus on repeat, violent offenders and programs to help at-risk individuals have a path away from crime.

"We're seeing some optimistic results," Harrison said.

He also noted a shortage of officers and past issues with broken down patrol cars and equipment. 

"I believe that what we're doing right now is not working," Costello said. "My constituents believe that what we're doing now is not working. . . . At what point does it become clear to us that it's not working? How long do we follow the strategy with the same levels of crime or increased levels of crime before we say, 'You know what? We have the wrong strategy in place. This is not working.'"

Harrison told him people discount "other parts of the criminal justice system" and are "putting their whole belief on it all sits on the shoulders of police and that's why it's not working." The commissioner called it an "unfair" and "uninformed assessment."

"It's my assessment, so I guess it's uninformed," Costello said. "But that's my assessment of the situation: is that what we are doing right now, currently, is not working. These levels of violence are simply not sustainable."

The clearance rate for homicides—the number solved—has dropped to 38%.

It is 23% for non-fatal shootings and just 18.7 percent for robberies. All are below national averages.

The national homicide clearance rate is 55.7%. 

WJZ and CBS News put a spotlight on the growing number of unsolved homicides last week in a series called Crime Without Punishment.

Another area of concern: Commercial robberies in Baltimore have more than doubled this year. There have been 484 compared with 234 at this time last year.

"More businesses are open," Col. Sheree Briscoe said. "They're open later. They're open longer. And what we're seeing is a lot of store clerks and personnel trying to intervene in thefts."

The relentless gun violence has many people concerned.

"You can be an innocent person and get killed. It's bad. I've been trying to get out of the city," said Leslie, a city resident who declined to give her last name. 

"It's only been getting worse," Danteya, another Baltimore resident, told WJZ Wednesday outside city hall.

Of the 58 people arrested for homicide this year, 45 had prior arrests.

Wednesday's hearing had to be delayed after an officer was dragged and seriously injured during a traffic stop last week.

"I have been to see him this week. He was sitting up with his wife doing well and talking," Harrison said. "I was very grateful that I was able to go and see him."

Also Wednesday, council member, Odette Ramos, thanked police for their continuing work on a high-profile potential arson in her neighborhood that gained national attention after homes and Pride decorations were set on fire.

Fewer than one in three arsons in the city have been solved so far this year. 

Thursday afternoon, BPD plans to hold a news conference on redrawing Baltimore's nine police districts.

They have not undergone significant boundary changes since the late 1950s.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.