BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ)–Is the theft of prescription drugs really to blame for Baltimore’s deadliest month in a generation? The commissioner links them to the alarming rise violence.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren has more.

How is the looting of 27 pharmacies connected to Baltimore street violence?

“There’s enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year. That amount of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore,” said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.

The drugs have saturated the market. With a limited pool buyers on the streets, drug dealers are competing for every dollar–causing turf wars.

Part of it is connected to turf battles between gangs and independent drug dealers, authorities say.

Combine that with a sharp decline in arrests and criminals feeling “empowered” according to the police union. That means they’re more likely to settle turf disputes with violence leading to a spike in shootings and murders.

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But some say the impact of the stolen prescriptions is being way overstated, including Dr. Ted Sutton, a former gang member who how works with youth in the community. He says it’s far more complicated than that.

“Could it fuel a little bit? Yes, you know. But I wouldn’t say that would be the major reason for the spike,” said Sutton. “Most drug dealers know that more homicides bring more unwanted attention. People on the street are feeling the police are not going to do what they were doing as far as the policing. If you have a beef with someone, this would be the time to kind of deal with that. We have to get to the people who are actually in that position and try to deal with them before they do something.”

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It’s worth noting, Baltimore is just one of several cities experiencing a wave of shootings, including New York, Chicago and Milwaukee.

“Officers all across America came to me and said, ‘Sheriff, we don’t know any more. We don’t trust the political class. We don’t know if it’s worth it to be very proactive–these high-risk stops,” said Wisconsin Sheriff David A. Clarke.

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