Baltimore leaders must act to keep from falling deeper into the abyss
Originally published in the Capital Gazette
A recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal captures the dismal situation of our northern neighbor Baltimore, a city where many Anne Arundel residents work. It’s also a city that many of us visit — or at least used to.
The article was written by Sean Kennedy, a visiting fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute. Just a few days after the article ran, the NBC-TV evening news led with the shootout in the city involving U.S. marshals who were attempting to deliver an arrest warrant.
The situation in Baltimore is grim — so grim, in fact, that Gov. Larry Hogan used his state of the state speech to address the unrelenting violence in the city and implored the state’s political leadership to find ways to reduce it.
Tom Jurkowsky is a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and sits on the board of the nonprofit Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). MOAA advocates for a strong national defense and for service members and their families. He is an adjunct instructor at Anne Arundel Community College. He lives in Annapolis. - Original Credit: (Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)
Unfortunately, local Baltimore leaders have failed to solve it. After each murder and shooting, the only thing we hear is “Our thoughts and prayers go to victims and their families,” “We will find the perpetrators of these crimes” and “These crimes must stop.”
Unfortunately, nothing changes and the violence continues each day.
After Hogan’s speech, Baltimore officials criticized him for suggesting that law enforcement was the sole solution in a city ridden with poverty, poor schools and high unemployment.
The governor can certainly help in regard to these issues — as can the state legislature. But what about the leadership in Baltimore itself? What do city officials see as their role? If the leadership there cannot get a grip on the problems and find solutions, they should step aside. They should not be looking at others to solve their problems.
The situation is dire. As Mr. Kennedy points out:
- None of the largest 50 American cities approaches Baltimore’s per capita death toll from violence. It exceeds Third World metropolises that are plagued by gang wars, corrupt politicians and outmatched law enforcement agencies — just like Baltimore.
- Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras had murder rates of 21.5, 36 and 41.2 per 100,000 residents, respectively in 2019. Baltimore’s murder rate was 58 per 100,000 residents and has climbed 65% since 2014. All three countries have cut their murder tolls in half over the last five years.
- The Baltimore Police Department has had five chiefs in four years and 500 fewer officers than it did 10 years ago. Arrests have dropped 48% over the last five years. The department is demoralized, underfunded and understaffed.
- This manpower shortage has created a situation in which arrests are made in less than 35% of murder investigations. The department is also dealing with more than 1,500 open homicide cases.
Many of the city’s 711 nonfatal shootings in 2019 will also go unsolved.
Kennedy appropriately points out that the police department is itself under scrutiny for its own corruption, brutality and ineptness. Last year it was found that a gun-crime task force was acting as a rogue criminal enterprise. Hundreds of criminal cases have been compromised because of inappropriate behavior by the city police.
But Kennedy juxtaposes the unfortunate facts about the Baltimore Police Department with the efforts of the Baltimore State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby:
- Between 2015 and 2018, fewer than 1 in 6 charged murderers in Baltimore earned a prison sentence.
- Mosby has lost or dropped 43% of her homicide cases. Most city prosecutors win 70% of their cases.
- Mosby has allowed 76 convicted killers to accept probation and return to Baltimore streets.
Is it any wonder why morale in the police department is low?
It’s no surprise that businesses and people are leaving Baltimore. Little Italy, what used to be a wonderful place to have dinner with family and friends, is just a shadow of itself. The Inner Harbor, once the crown jewel of Charm City, has similarly lost its shine. Recent comments found on Trip Advisor tell the story:
- “Very unsafe. My wife was groped by a juvenile on a bike while returning to our hotel. Juveniles are running around everywhere and out of control. I recommend bringing a firearm to keep your family safe.”
- “We took a side trip here while visiting colleges….Big mistake. Gangs rule the area and harass people. We saw several incidents……”
It’s time to stop the rhetoric and focus on solving the crime and violence problem.
City officials need to focus on more than installing bike lanes and banning Styrofoam food containers and plastic shopping bags. Baltimore is in desperate need of leaders, role models and mentors — individuals with vision, bold ideas and courage. Otherwise, the city will fall even deeper into the abyss.
Tom Jurkowsky is a retired Navy rear admiral who served on active duty for 31 years. He lives in Annapolis.