BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore leaders hope a shift in the city’s crime fighting strategy will change the reality of violence that has become common.

On Wednesday, Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced city police have reduced the number of microzones from 131 to 81 in order to focus on deploying more officers into the neighborhoods with the most crime.

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“This strategy is about quality over quantity and deploy our resources strategically,” Scott said. “Though the remaining zones still represent roughly the same proportion of homicides and shootings, we’re confident that this approach is more tailored to where we need our officers to be.”

Harrison said the decisions were made based on data that showed where crime may have decreased and where crime may have spiked. It also helps with staffing issues, allowing for police to focus resources on the areas of the city where violent crimes occur.

A map of the 2021 micro zones in Baltimore. Credit: BPD

“These new zones represent the areas where nearly 30% of homicides are occurred and about 45% of where all shootings have occurred over the past 18 months,” Harrison said.

“We understand the need to prioritize these areas and provide quality engagement to have a true impact on crime reduction based on where crime is occurring now, adapting to the right type of engagement in these areas will allow officers to be flexible and how we address areas of concern from residents and businesses alike,” he continued.

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Scott said officers can’t be everywhere so the shift will hopefully give them more flexibility and time to address the root causes behind the violence while engaging and building relationships with the community.

Watch the full news conference below:

As of Wednesday morning, the city has recorded 19 homicides in 2021, down from 23 at the same time in 2020. Non-fatal shootings, meanwhile, are up slightly at 41 so far this year compared to 37 in the same period last year.

One of the homicide victims was Dante Barksdale, an activist who worked to reduce violence in the city as part of the Safe Streets program. Police are still searching for his killer and a motive.

“We need help around here and that’s what Dante did, he tried to help… that’s what he was about,” a Baltimore resident named Dolores said.

Read more about BPD’s crime plan here. 

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Rachel Menitoff