The Baltimore Mayor’s Office On Criminal Justice was one considered an influential agency that coordinated with state, applied for grant funding and planned strategies to fight crime. Today. It is in chaos, as violent crime and homicide rates continue to scale higher.
As the office lost nearly half of its staff, the city lost over $1 million in grand funding, which supported its Safe Streets program, a public health, evidence based produced designed to curb gun violence by urging ex-offenders to intervene in local disputes. The agency also lost the coordinator and director of its very beneficial Sexual Assault Response Team.
As Baltimore struggles to maintain control of its spiking homicide rate, which is at it’s highest on record over the past few years, less resources are becoming available and there is no relief in sight. Compared to last year, murders are up by 26 percent; robberies are up by 20 percent and shootings are up by 24 percent.
In a recent committee hearing, City Councilman Brandon Scott asked Baltimore police officials why wasn’t a more effective plan in place to curb violence, with the summer season just around the corner and when homicide rates tend to increase. Police officials responded by saying the mayor’s office is currently working to secure jobs for youths for summer.
Mayor Catherine Pugh commented on the changes by suggesting the office was undergoing ”reorganization.” She also explained that some the departures were related to grant-based positions lapsing, but her office is actively seeking funding to transform some of the positions into permanent jobs.
Pugh stressed how committed her administration is to find a solution to the prolonged issues that contribute to minor and violent crime, including joblessness, drug abuse and poverty. Pugh’s administration is creating partnerships, while trying to decide an outcome for the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice.
Just recently, the city partnered with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to combat gun violence and met the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to request more agents to be sent to the city to help curb the increasing fatal drug overdoses.
In 2015, 400 people died of overdoses in Baltimore, this number more than doubled in 2016. The unemployment rate is higher than 10 percent in many Baltimore neighborhoods.
Pugh’s budget cuts $130,00 from juvenile justice efforts, $100,000 from Citiwatch and $2.2 million from the office’s coordination of public safety strategy efforts.
“The illegal drug trafficking that’s going on in our city is out of control,” Pugh said. “Federal assistance is coming. …Our focus has to be on reducing the gun violence in our city.”