The #1 excuse in the past few years under two mayoral administrations as to why homicides have consistently skyrocketed past 300 a year and quality of life crimes have soared higher than a bald eagle on crack is: we don’t have enough police officers.
So a reasonable person’s solution to that dilemma would be to fill the more than 500 vacant positions that exist within the city’s police department. However, according to a recent Baltimore Sun report that outlines the recruitment figures of the past two years, it shows a steady decline in the number of officers within the Baltimore City Police Department, instead of an increase.
Last year, the city suffered a net loss of 36 sworn officers, having hired 184 officers while losing 220 officers in the process. This is a sharp decline in comparison to 2017, where the city hired 207 officers and lost 204 – gaining officers instead of losing even more. And even with a more convenient online application process, which has increased the number of applications submitted fourfold, it still hasn’t been enough to stem the tide that has city leaders scratching their head as to when this administration would put together a crime plan that actually works.
Senator Bill Ferguson took to Facebook after this latest Sun report, stating in so many words that the narrative being pushed by the Pugh administration about crime being down is patently false in one post, while stating in another that “when a year is spent talking about police staffing as the city’s top priority; than outcomes, or the lack thereof, matter.” This chorus was joined by several city leaders, including frequent Pugh critic Councilman Brandon Scott, who chose to use the media to express his dismay.
“They [the Pugh administration] need to cut the excuses,” Scott recently said. “We don’t want to hear excuses about why we can’t do this or can’t do that. They need to just put things in place to make sure the department is operating efficiently, and the citizens of Baltimore are protected.”
And while the Mayor’s public safety plan, or lack thereof, doesn’t put people’s mind at ease; it seems that judges and local businesses downtown have chosen to put their safety into their own hands, by offering employees security guards ready and willing to walk them to their vehicles or place of employment. In an email distributed across the entire judicial listserv of employees earlier today, an attached flyer from the Downtown Partnership offered safety guides and escorts for local employees and businesses in their 106-downtown corridor.
Apparently, according to the flyer, anyone working late – or based on the hours – working anytime, in downtown Baltimore; can request that a downtown partnership employee walk you to your car, bus stop or nearby destination. A number is given if you need the services of a “guide” between the hours of 10:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., while a completely different number is given if you need an “escort” between the hours of 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
The service is only offered to those who reside or work within the 106-block corridor that they cover, stretching from State Center to the north down to Key Highway and the bottom of the Inner Harbor; while going from Green Street and the University of MD over to I-83 and President Street. Unfortunately, if you live in the thousands of blocks that make up the rest of Baltimore, you are on your own.
According to the Downtown Partnership’s City Commitment to Policing and Capital Investment in downtown Baltimore, they write that the Mayor and her team recognize that downtown needs the same law enforcement assistance similar to those neighborhoods with increased crime. Problem is, downtown Baltimore does not suffer from the same level of violent crime as these neighborhoods they reference, but yet there aren’t any efforts similar to the one being offered up by the Partnership – at no charge – for members of these communities.
In fact, the safety of downtown is so pressing to this administration, that it came at an additional cost of $4 million to hire an additional 23 members of their now 62-member full-time security force. So it seems the Downtown Partnership has had no problem hiring more than double the amount officers in one year than the city has hired in the past several years? Maybe they should take a page from their book? But until they do, I’ll make sure to “See you around downtown”.