Baltimore police arrested fewer people in May than in any month for at least three years, despite a surge in homicides and shootings across the city — triggering safety concerns among residents.
Several neighborhoods saw declines of more than 90 percent from April to May, while arrests in the West Baltimore area where Freddie Gray was arrested dropped by more than half during the same period, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of police data. Citywide, arrests declined 43 percent from April to May.
“I’ve noticed fewer police,” said Steve Dixon, program director for the Penn North Recovery Center in West Baltimore. “We’re having robberies at the playground in broad daylight. All these murders and shootings, we’re having them in broad daylight.”
The dramatic citywide decline — which has sparked a debate about police pulling back on enforcement efforts — came in the aftermath of the death of Gray. Six officers have been charged in the death of the 25-year-old, who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody and died a week after his April 12 arrest.
City leaders and police union officials have provided explanations for the slowdown.
Officers have been hesitant to make arrests since the rioting that followed Gray’s funeral, union and police department officials have said. Officers also have been surrounded by camera-wielding residents recording their every move, according to the police commissioner. And since Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed the criminal charges in Gray’s death, many officers are afraid that they risk being charged with crimes for trying to do their jobs, union leaders say.
“If [police] are standing there being indecisive about what to do, that’s going to hurt,” said City Council Vice President Edward Reisinger. “It’s a mess. If this trend continues, people are going to feel, even myself, unsafe.”
Dixon is not convinced that police are genuinely fearful. Just angry.
“They’re absolutely angry that six police officers were charged,” he said.
In recent weeks, homicides and shootings have spiked. There were 42 homicides in Baltimore in May, the most in a month since 1990. And police have reported 237 shootings this year, an 84 percent jump over the comparable period last year.
Source: Baltimore Sun |