During the period of insanity that encouraged “defunding of the police” or its abolition, there was a focus on replacing the police in some circumstances with “community safety” agents who were supposed to act as unarmed “violence cutters” and reduce the number of fatal use of force incidents by police officers . In Baltimore, Maryland’s violent gang areas, an existing organization known as the “Safe Streets Program” gained much attention and municipal support in this effort. The objective of the program is to deploy former (or “ex”) gang members into gang-controlled areas to negotiate peaceful solutions to disputes. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with other “violence boycott” programs proposed in major cities, sending someone with a cache to solve a problem among gang members isn’t always effective. This was unfortunately the case this week when a Safe Streets worker in Baltimore was murdered along with several others on the east side of Charm City. (Baltimore Sun)
A four-way shooting in East Baltimore on Wednesday night killed three people, including a Safe Streets worker, and one person was injured, police said. Three others were wounded in separate shootings in western and southern Baltimore.
Around 7:25 p.m. Eastern District Patrol officers responded to a ShotSpotter warning at Block 2400 of Monument Avenue E. Once there, officers identified four men with obvious gunshot wounds.
A 28-year-old man was declared dead at the scene. Paramedics took three other victims to area hospitals, where a 24-year-old man and another man were declared dead.
Just to be clear, I am not an opponent of Safe Streets and this murder was particularly horrific, even in a city where murders happen daily. Tragically, the murder rate in Baltimore is still higher than what you see in Kabul, Afghanistan during any given week. If they can find people who are able and willing to get out there and talk some gang members off the edge instead of scaling their meat with illegal firearms, God bless them. They should be willing to try anything at this point.
And it’s not like the program is completely ineffective. In the specific neighborhoods that Safe Streets focuses on, there have been some measurable (if not drastic) reductions in shootings and occasional killings. Last summer, the Cherry Hill neighborhood was able to celebrate a solid year without a single death with a gun in the streets, although that streak of victories sadly ended after a short time.
But this murder also underscores the fact that violent crime, especially when we talk about gang violence, sometimes requires a legal and violent response. The Baltimore police force has been reduced in some form of decline since the Freddy Gray riots. The city government spent more time trying to prosecute its own cops than the gangs, who had largely regained control of the streets in many parts of Baltimore. When law enforcement is seen as weak or ineffective, gangs move in to fill the power vacuum.
Moreover, while I pay tribute to the efforts of the Safe Streets Program, it also serves as an unpleasant reminder of the bizarre nature of the crime problem in Baltimore and how the city government chooses to address it. We’re at the point where a municipality-approved program is negotiating with gangs to try to get them to stop killing people left and right. This is a totally miserable situation. Legitimate citizens expect the government to keep them safe, and law enforcement is not only supposed to deter violent crimes, but to investigate and bring suspects to trial. When did we get to the point where the government has to send negotiators to try to get them to act as decent humans rather than killer animals?
The new mayor and new city council president have been in office for more than a year. (Although the mayor may be a little distracted at the moment due to the legal troubles he and his wife have fallen into.) Both, like most of their predecessors over the past two decades, ran for office with a promise to control gang violence and reduce the rate of bloodshed. City residents need to be held accountable and demand the right to leave their homes without the constant threat of immediate shooting. And if those people can’t get the job done, replace them with someone who can.