Baltimore Police, City and Community Concerned over Surge in Violence

Justin George, Baltimore Sun, May 18, 2015

Across from a CVS drugstore in West Baltimore that remains shuttered and charred from last month’s riots, two high-top tennis shoes remained on the sidewalk Monday, surrounded by police detectives and crime tape.

It was the scene of the city’s 164th nonfatal shooting this year.

While police and city officials deal with continued fallout from the death of Freddie Gray, they also are confronting escalating violence. Homicides are up nearly 40 percent compared with the same time last year, while nonfatal shootings are up 60 percent.

Most of the homicides have occurred in the Police Department’s Western District, where Gray was arrested. {snip}

On Monday, minutes after reports of the shooting near CVS, two of the department’s highest-ranking officers arrived at North and Pennsylvania avenues to look over the crime scene. Their presence underscored concern about the uptick in violence. Recent incidents have included five people wounded in an East Baltimore shooting Saturday and two homicides Sunday.

“This is equally as unacceptable to the people here as it is to us,” said Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis as customers popped into carryouts and basement shops around him.

“Definitely, some people in the community are just as frustrated,” added Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere.

As he spoke, a man rode by on his bike, calling out to police: “All day, every day, we will fight for Freddie Gray.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said detectives are working to arrest suspects and that police “have to keep adjusting our tactics to stay ahead of the violent repeat offenders that are causing this violence.”

“What we’ve seen over the past few weeks will not be tolerated,” she said. “I want to assure the community that every available resource will be utilized to make our community safer.”

Rawlings-Blake also downplayed concerns expressed by some Baltimore officers that members of the force are hesitant to make arrests after prosecutors brought charges in the Gray case, and that criminals might take advantage.

“People have said, ‘Well, it’s because morale is down,’ or, ‘It’s because the officers were charged,'” Rawlings-Blake said of the violence. “We don’t know that, and we have to follow the information that we’re getting through those investigations, and that is what the Police Department is doing.”

{snip}

Among the 34 people killed in the past 30 days in Baltimore was Tahlil Yasin, 39, who was shot Thursday in the 2100 block of Edmondson Ave.

Nathan Thomas, 38, grew up with Yasin and said his cousin was funny and loyal but looked to the streets for opportunity.

“He was making a lot of bad decisions, he was living a lifestyle that was not conducive to positive growth,” Thomas said. “He was caught up in the lifestyle I used to be caught up in years ago. I just made a conscious decision to stop taking from the community.”

{snip}

“It’s a lack of respect for human life, and specifically, a lot of folk may not want to admit it, but for a lot of youths–a lot of black youths–they look at one another as the enemy,” Thomas said. The violence “just shows to the majority of us that black lives don’t matter.”

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