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City Police Get Help From Feds To Fight Homicide Surge

Sen. Barbara Mikulski praised a new task force that will embed ten federal agents with the city's homicide unit. She was joined by numerous officials, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Rep. Elijah Cummings.

As Baltimore continues to struggle with an unrelenting surge of murders and shootings, the city’s police department announced a new task force yesterday to help stop the bloodshed. The announcement comes after Baltimore ended its deadliest month since 1972.

A who’s who of law enforcement and elected officials stood outside the Baltimore Police Department with stern faces to announce the new task force. Senator Barbara Mikulski said the arrangement gives city police access to the resources of five different federal agencies. That means detectives can tap into advanced ballistics analysis capabilities at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, she said, so, “we can get the bullets, we know what guns they came from, and we can see: are they from a single killer, are they from a gang, are they from a syndicate? They bring those resources.”

The move comes on the heels of new strategies a major and a shakeup in the top ranks of the department, including a new top cop. Last month, Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis helped launch the “War Room” which he says has improved communication between local and federal law enforcement and prosecutors. He said the new task force will operate for sixty days and use new strategies – he declined to give specifics – designed to take down the small number of people he says are responsible for the bulk of the killings.

“We know who they are. We know they’re small in number,” he said. “They’re just highly motivated right now. And with our federal partners we’re going to do something to stifle their motivation.”     

Nearly two thirds of homicide cases remain open as the number of people killed continues to climb. One persistent challenge to solving murders: people in the community who have information that can help detectives won’t come forward. Congressman Elijah Cummings addressed them directly, saying that “when you stand back and don’t do anything, all you do is allow a murderer to go out there and do it again.

But many fear reprisal if they help the police, according to Joyce Green, president of the Central District Police Community Relations Council.

“I can understand seeing something and being afraid to say something because the police department can only protect you to a point,” Green said. “But we have to find a way. I don’t care what the police department has to do, to protect people, and I think people will come forward.”

Green said she just hopes that the added federal help will come with new strategies to make people safer.