Baltimore Residents Blame Record-High Murder Rate on Lower Police Presence

Lauren Frayer, NPR, December 31, 2017

For the third year in a row, Baltimore, Md., has had more than 300 murders, reaching a new record of murders per number of residents in 2017.

Some residents attribute the high murder rate to relaxed police patrols in the city following high-profile cases of police brutality. Officers have backed off in neighborhoods, like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested.

The Rev. Kinji Scott, a pastor in Baltimore who’s held positions in local city government, says the opposite needs to happen.

“We wanted the police there,” Scott says. “We wanted them engaged in the community. We didn’t want them beating the hell out of us, we didn’t want that.”

He’s among activists who are calling for police reform to reduce the violence in Baltimore and several other high-crime cities across the U.S. that he says haven’t seen change. That change begins with a conversation between the communities directly involved, Scott says.

“We need the front line police officers and we need the heart of the black community to step to the forefront of this discussion,” he says. “And that’s when we’re going to see a decrease in crime.”

Interview Highlights

{snip}

On whether the community wanted police to back off after the death of Freddie Gray

No. That represented our progressives, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians, but it did not represent the overall community. Because we know for a fact that around the time Freddie Gray was killed, we start to see homicides increase. We had five homicides in that neighborhood while we were protesting.

{snip}

On whether the high murder rate is unique to Baltimore

It’s not. I lost my brother in St. Louis in 2004; just lost my cousin in Chicago. No it’s not unique, and that’s the horrible thing.

{snip}

On whether he’s optimistic for 2018

I am not. Because I look at the conclusion of 2017, these same cities — St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Chicago — these same black cities are still bleeding to death and we’re still burying young men in these cities.

{snip}

We need the front line police officers and we need the heart of the black community to step to the forefront of this discussion. And that’s when we’re going to see a decrease in crime.

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