WASHINGTON — Reaching 200 homicides is a benchmark no one in Baltimore wanted. But as the city continues to track toward a record number of killings, police are noting two drastic changes already quelling violence in Charm City.
“That’s 200 human beings. My brother being one of those numbers. We don’t look at them as numbers, we look at them as human beings,” said Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith. Smith’s brother was killed earlier this month.
The city was already on pace for its third consecutive year of record violence when an unidentified 23-year-old man was gunned down on Greenmount Avenue Wednesday afternoon — becoming the city’s 200th homicide victim.
Unlike 2016, when detectives solved almost a third of all homicides in the city, Smith said the clearance rate this year is closer to two-thirds.
The reason is simple: The community is stepping up to take a stand against the violence and sharing information with police.
“We’re getting tips like we’ve never got tips before for homicides and we’re getting those in a non-incentivized way where they’re just texting it into us, where they are just dropping a note to us, and they don’t care about money,” Smith said.
Several community groups are leading a grass-roots effort calling for a cease-fire next weekend, August 5 through 7.
The ‘Nobody Kill Anybody’ campaign has plastered the city with stickers and fliers, according to Smith.
Neighborhood leaders like Erricka Bridgeford are behind the call for a 72-hour truce. WTOP has reached out to Bridgeford for a comment.
To combat the violence, Commissioner Kevin Davis has reassigned 150 officers to specific districts so that the office become familiar with every corner of every neighborhood. The new operations teams will no longer wear plain clothes or report to the central office. Instead, they will focus on neighborhood assignments through district command.
Smith said the change in assignments will give officers more flexibility to respond to trends in violence.
“The main responsibility for these officers is going to be to know the geography, to know the crime trends and know the bad guys and affect that with their response,” Smith said.