On July 2, a huge crowd gathered at Baltimore’s Brooklyn Homes public housing project for a block party. The “Brooklyn Day” celebration culminated in the worst mass shooting in Baltimore’s history, with 30 victims, including two fatalities; police recovered shell casings from as many as 16 guns. Before a single arrest had been made or weapon recovered, local officials were blaming guns for the incident, with Baltimore’s young Democratic mayor, Brandon Scott, condemning Congress for not banning “ghost guns.” But the Brooklyn Homes shooting was the inevitable result of policies that have engendered crime in Charm City for decades.
Baltimore’s elected officials bear much of the blame for the city’s crime problem. From 2015 until leaving office earlier this year, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby undermined the rule of law in Baltimore. A George Soros-supported prosecutor, Mosby helped unleash an unprecedented crime wave by dropping cases, refusing to prosecute serious crimes, and keeping violent criminals out of prison. During Mosby’s first year in office alone, Baltimore homicides soared 62 percent; they totaled 2,653 during her tenure. Mosby was guided by an ideology that sees criminals as victims, police as criminals, and victims as collateral damage, even when most of this last group are black (as are 95 percent of all Baltimore homicide victims).
After Mosby’s disastrous tenure, Baltimore’s citizens got fed up. In last July’s Democratic primary, 72 percent of voters rejected her and elected Ivan Bates on a platform to hold criminals accountable.
Unfortunately, Mayor Scott seems to share Mosby’s ideology. As City Council president, Scott helped to slash $22 million from the Baltimore Police Department budget. The money was subsequently restored, but Scott began dismantling the BPD by other means. In 2021, when Baltimore announced its Group Violence Reduction Strategy, I observed that the anti-police scheme sought to replace cops with social workers. Today, the BPD is understaffed by 700 officers.
Meantime, Safe Streets, Scott’s flagship violence-reduction initiative, has also proved a failure. The program hires ex-convicts and supposedly reformed gang members as “violence interrupters” to mediate conflicts between neighborhood gang members, drug dealers, and other violent criminals. Baltimore spent $5 million on Safe Streets last year, and another $21 million is on the way. But Scott has kept secret the details of the program’s policies, operations, and finances. For more than a year, his office has refused to explain how the program works or where the money goes. Disturbingly, Scott hides the identities of Safe Streets workers from the public. The mayor has also channeled millions in taxpayer dollars to nonprofits that manage Safe Street operations and put the workers on their payrolls. Scott then claims that the workers are not city employees, using this ruse to continue concealing their names.
These policies played a clear role in the Brooklyn Day tragedy. The BPD is so short of manpower that, on the night of the block party, only seven officers were on duty in the entire Southern District, where Brooklyn Homes is located. The few officers available to respond faced an impossible situation. Confronted with a crowd of more than 1,000 people, many hostile, police lacked the massive backup they needed. The event organizers were irresponsible in not obtaining a permit. They demonstrated no interest in cooperating with the police or other city departments to ensure a safe and orderly event. Neither Mayor Scott nor any City Council member has held the block party organizers accountable.
The Brooklyn Day catastrophe proved the incompatibility of Safe Streets with building community policing in Baltimore. Safe Streets workers are instructed not to cooperate with the police, a policy that has led to deadly results. Safe Streets workers knew about the event in advance and attended because of the likelihood of violence. They did not share this information with the police. At the event, Safe Streets intervened in five confrontations that threatened imminent violence. They did not call the police. And even as violence and tension escalated throughout the crowd, Safe Streets called it an early night at 11:30 p.m. An hour later, 30 people had been shot and two were dead.
In the aftermath, Safe Streets’ lack of cooperation has obstructed the BPD’s efforts to bring the offenders to justice. Safe Streets has worked in the Brooklyn community for years and knows every gang member and criminal. Its workers either already know the shooters or could learn their identities quickly. But they won’t help the police make arrests.
Mayor Scott supports this non-cooperation policy. He says that it enables the workers to “maintain their credibility with the community.” What Scott really means is that it helps them maintain their credibility with the criminal community.
As a law enforcement leader for 29 years, I have seen genuinely reformed ex-convicts and former gang members make a difference in community violence prevention. As mentors, they can provide leadership to young men and at-risk youth, guiding these young people on a law-abiding path and sharing crime-related information with the police. We need programs like these. But Safe Streets is not one of them. It needs to go.
Baltimore is one of America’s most crime-ridden and dysfunctional cities. But don’t sell its decent law-abiding citizens short. They rose up last year to reclaim their hijacked criminal justice system by throwing out a powerful Soros prosecutor. The Democratic Party primary for Baltimore’s mayor and city council is scheduled for April 2024. Starting now, Baltimoreans must find new leadership who will turn back the ill-conceived leftist policies that have undermined their police department and produced an epidemic of homicide.
Photos: Nathan Howard/Getty Images