Cornerstone Laid in Baltimore’s Crime Fighting Strategy

Nov 21, 2013

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake surrounded by several police commanders, city agency heads and city residents. They released a strategic plan to fight crime and improve department operations Thursday afternoon.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Baltimore officials have released a crime fighting strategy that essentially overhauls the city’s police department.

The strategy, drafted by the Strategic Policy Partnership and the Bratton Group – led by Bill Bratton who recently led the Los Angeles Police Department, was released during a Thursday afternoon press conference at city hall.

“We understand that it doesn’t matter if you’re with the health department, the police department or Visit Baltimore; public safety matters to each and every one of us,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was joined by Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, several police commanders, city agency heads and city residents.

The mayor said the report was commissioned with an eye towards the future.  “We understand that crime is not static, what worked in previous years may not work now or in the future,” she said, “Criminals adapt and so must we in order to continue to keep our city safe.”

The document, nearly 200 pages long, laid out strategies to target gangs, guns and  violent repeat offenders and to develop and maintain relationships with the community.  Batts referred to the report as the department’s business plan and added that a top down review was in order. 

“[From day one, I observed] a department that was operating in outdated ways and needed a new direction,” said Batts, who took over the city department in September 2012 after serving as chief of police for Oakland, Ca.

The consultant’s report calls for developing a “ceasefire program” that targets the least violent members of gangs and involves community residents and social services agencies in so called “call-in” sessions.  During the sessions, residents would tell gang members how their actions affect everyone around them and social services agencies would help members find jobs and housing.

The report also suggests increasing foot patrols and ensuring officers are trained in community interaction.  It also addresses challenges faced by the department that includes energizing the workforce and upgrading the department’s infrastructure, including buildings, vehicles and equipment.

“I think it has laid the foundation for really moving forward with a whole bunch of issues that are real challenges,” said Robert Wasserman, head of Strategic Policy Partnership, who complimented Batts for initiating a number of reforms in the last year, “Violent crime is a big, big issue but it’s not the only issue.”

Bratton, who also led police departments in New York and Boston, noted that one of the issues faced by the department is officer retention.  “You’re losing them faster than you can hire them; we speak to that in the report,” he said.

The city paid $285,000 for the report, the most expensive of the five bids received. The report originally was due in July, but delayed three times.  Mayoral spokesman Kevin Harris said officials wanted the report to be a thorough and thoughtful analysis to maximize the benefit to the city and the police department.  “We had the consultants comb through everything, which took some additional time, but in the end produced the best possible product for the citizens,” he said.