A day after devoting most of her State of the City address to Baltimore’s crime problems, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake took to the streets to highlight one of her crime fighting strategies, enforcement zones.
She and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts held a news conference Tuesday a few blocks from the scene where 16-year-old Lavar Crawford was shot and killed in January to talk about how those zones have reduced crime in some neighborhoods.
Batts said crime rates have dropped consistently in recent years in the four zones police have set up. For example, the zone in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood, known as CHM, has seen a 25 percent reduction in overall violent crime, he said.
Rawlings-Blake said police have increased the number of zones—chosen because of sharp increases in crime rates—this year from four to 17. But neither she nor Batts would say where those zones are because they don’t want criminals to find out.
Police flood the enforcement zones, targeting repeat violent offenders with warrants, drug buys and undercover stings. “These zones are patrolled by every officer; not just specialized units,” said Rawlings-Blake.
Batts said they will know if their efforts are successful based on how residents react. “When [citizens and residents] come off their porches and get engaged, that’s going to be the success for us as a city,” he said.
Reaction from neighborhood residents was mixed. LeMorn Blount was skeptical of the numbers given by Batts. “The crime rate is not down over here; they’re killing each other every day over here,” said Blount who also expressed some distrust of officers who patrol the area.
Mark Washington, executive director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corporation, said attitudes of police as well as community residents need to change. He said he has had cooperation from the mayor’s office as well as police commanders in the district. Washington said the mayor was “spot on” when she said she’ll try anything as long as it’s constructive. “Anything that puts an additional tool in to the tool box is a good thing,” said Washington who added the efforts should not be diminished.