BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Tackling violent crime remains a top priority for city leaders. But with murders and shootings on the rise, there is renewed debate over how to curb it.
Derek Valcourt explains that debate centers on whether city police are making enough arrests.
It’s a controversial topic, in part, because the city took a lot of criticism 10 years ago when a zero tolerance policy led to record numbers of arrests.
Nine-year-old Kenneth Worrell–shot inside his own home–was one of the latest victims of violence in the city. But he’s far from the only one.
Statistics show the number of murders and non-fatal shootings in the city from January to Sept. 10 are up compared to the same time last year.
“I think we have to ask ourselves what has changed in this equation,” Governor O’Malley said.
The governor has suggested city police may need to make more arrests. In fact, in a recent presentation to the city’s criminal justice coordinating council, he showed a graphic illustrating that as arrests soared from 2000 to 2003, while he was mayor, violent crime began sharply plummeting.
Then the drop in crime began to level off as the number of arrests in the city began falling by more than 50 percent over the last decade.
“So those lines crossed about eight or nine months ago. And I think reasonable citizens would want to ask if maybe perhaps there is something more we can do to improve our level of enforcement,” the governor said.
“He’s saying more arrests, but you’ve already arrested them,” said Oscar Cobb.
Park Heights community activist Oscar Cobb says it’s not the quantity of the arrests, but the quality. Too many violent criminals escape conviction or get short sentences.
Valcourt: “You think the problem isn’t with arresting. You think the problem is with the courts?”
Cobb: “Right. The court system. I think the court system has a lot to do with it because if they put them back on the streets you are going to continue to have crime. You’ve got to get those ones off the street.”
Worrell’s accused shooter has been arrested over and over again. Now he sits in jail waiting to see if this time, he’ll be locked up for life.
The mayor says she believes in targeted arrests, focusing on violent criminals. Otherwise, she says police risk damaging their relationship with the community.
Police point out the number of people arrested but never charged with any crimes is down dramatically over the last decade.