While Baltimore has seen its first two residents killed thus far this year, one 16-years of age, the other 21-years old, we are seeing quiet a big change in end of the year numbers. As we had been accustomed to seeing over 300+ homicides a year in the 1990’s, not drastically reducing that number under then-Mayor O’Malley’s zero-tolerance policies, we have recently seen quiet a change in the numbers under a Dixon started, Rawlings-Blake continued, community-based policing program.
Reading two recent articles written by Baltimore Sun crime columnist Peter Hermann, I began to see a reflection of change throughout Baltimore homicide numbers based more on the leadership we have elected and their approach to crime rather than a top down ‘tough on crime’ blanket strategy that is suppose to remarkably change things by itself over night. While current Governor Martin O’Malley rested his hat on a ‘lock’em up and ask questions later’ policy that resulted in mass arrests and a steady number of crime and homicides, the recent approach of community-based policing has seen more relative numbers of consistent change, for the better?
While under former Mayor Sheila Dixon and former State Prosecutor Patricia Jessamy, Baltimore saw all-time lows in homicides, juvenile killings and officer related shootings. Looking at how these policies differed from those of their predecessors, one would assume that a more bottom up approach of outreach and rehabilitation seems more effective in long-term numbers then does the more immediate and instant gratification of arrest numbers and incarcerations? Taking for example O’Malley’s last full year as Mayor in 2005 with arrest numbers topping 108,000, while 269-people were killed and over 550 people were shot and wounded. Now follow that with the first full year of a Dixon-elected administration in 2008, when Baltimore saw 40-year lows in homicides seeing 234-people killed, arresting 25,000 less people than in 2005 and having 21-people shot by police, less the 33 shot the year before. However this still seemed to be not enough for then Mayor Dixon? Stating to the media that she was “disappointed” while acknowledging that there was still much more work to do, she attributed most of the gun arrests and violent crimes to the short prison sentences being handed down to the city’s most dangerous people?
This seems to still be a problem today; as Hermann reflects in one story written in today’s Sun, about how newly elected City Prosecutor Gregg Bernstein rode around with Police Commissioner and past campaign supporter Frederick Bealefeld, talking about it is a “new day with a new sheriff in town”? Well I guess we shall see about that, however if that is the case, where does that leave our usually targeted young African-American men and women in the inner-city communities? How is this new “dynamic duo” of City policing and prosecution going to come across to those who obviously do not look like them and do not suffer from the same problems that these gentlemen and their families do. You have an outside perspective by those who do not look like, talk like or even really understand the language, lingo or manners of those they are patrolling and/or prosecuting. Therefore where does that lead their decision making processes in terms of who to prosecute and who to rehabilitate? How then does that play to a more African American dominated electorate and elected officials, such as the current black Mayor and City Council President, who shall have to explain, oppose and/or support, such policies to their constituents?
As Baltimore voter registration numbers has increased as of late, holding steady at 367,874(+), being the fourth most registered jurisdiction in the State, how then does the new more white electorate play into those decisions? Seeing Independents overtake Republicans in registration by close to 8,000 more voters, while Democrats clearly have the decisive advantage with a little over 290,000 registered voters citywide, where shall the Mayoral and Council President candidates stand in their soliciting voters for their support when it comes to crime and punishment? Will they follow the advice of the more conservative ‘tough on crime’ police commissioner and prosecutor or follow the formula made popular by former Mayor Dixon that seemed to work in this City? With the first two homicides this year being those 21 and under, will we see the decade-low juvenile homicide number jump from 10 in 2010 to possibly beyond the 35 killed in 2003? These questions and more need to be answered not only by our current elected leadership, but also by any candidate vying for your vote come September/November 2011.
**The questioning of whether an African American dominated City needs to elect a black Mayor is one that would then beg the question that using that formula or philosophy, does than a white dominated America deserve or need to have, a white President of the United States? If so, what does that mean for President Barack Obama? This question shall be one of two panel discussions on the agenda at GCOMM Media & Morgan State/WEAA’s President’s Day Panel Discussion being brought to you LIVE on the Marc Steiner Show tentatively set for February 21 (President’s Day) from 5-7P at the Communications Building of Morgan State. Stay tuned for more information in the days and weeks to follow.
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