Baltimore police arrested fewer people in May than in any month for at least three years, despite a surge in homicides and shootings across the city — triggering safety concerns among residents.
Several neighborhoods saw declines of more than 90 percent from April to May, while arrests in the West Baltimore area where Freddie Gray was arrested dropped by more than half during the same period, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of police data. Citywide, arrests declined 43 percent from April to May.
"I've noticed fewer police," said Steve Dixon, program director for the Penn North Recovery Center in West Baltimore. "We're having robberies at the playground in broad daylight. All these murders and shootings, we're having them in broad daylight."
The dramatic citywide decline — which has sparked a debate about police pulling back on enforcement efforts — came in the aftermath of the death of Gray. Six officers have been charged in the death of the 25-year-old, who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody and died a week after his April 12 arrest.
City leaders and police union officials have provided explanations for the slowdown. Officers have been hesitant to make arrests since the rioting that followed Gray's funeral, union and police department officials have said.
Officers also have been surrounded by camera-wielding residents recording their every move, according to the police commissioner. And since Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed the criminal charges in Gray's death, many officers are afraid that they risk being charged with crimes for trying to do their jobs, union leaders say.
"If [police] are standing there being indecisive about what to do, that's going to hurt," said City Council Vice President Edward Reisinger. "It's a mess. If this trend continues, people are going to feel, even myself, unsafe." Dixon is not convinced that police are genuinely fearful. Just angry.
"They're absolutely angry that six police officers were charged," he said. In recent weeks, homicides and shootings have spiked. There were 42 homicides in Baltimore in May, the most in a month since 1990. And police have reported 237 shootings this year, an 84 percent jump over the comparable period last year.
Meanwhile, arrests have plummeted in neighborhoods across the city, according to The Sun's analysis of police data that is posted online. Some of the starkest declines took place in southwest neighborhoods: Only one arrest each was made in May in the Franklin Square and Mill Hill communities, a 95 percent decline over April arrests.
Seeing the slowdown
Ribyoon Pasha, who helps manage his family's Birdland Mart at West Cross Street and Washington Boulevard, said officers have always been slow to respond to his calls about drug dealing inside and outside his shop. "Usually when they come the sale is done," Pasha said. "I don't rely on the cops. I'm my own security."
He said it took 15 to 20 minutes for police to respond to an incident on the evening of Feb. 8, when two men fought and stabbed each other in the middle of Ostend Street. Surveillance video shows one man lying in the middle of the street while the other man, holding his stomach, slowly walks away. But the police presence has faded even further after the Gray unrest, Pasha said.
He and his fellow manager, Hassan Naveed, stood last week behind a glass-encased cashier's box in the store, speaking through the opening where money is exchanged.
These days, they said, they have less confidence that the police can help. "I think they are just scared," Pasha said. "They're not afraid of dying. They're afraid of going to jail."People forget the last sentence of the first verse of Francis Scott Key's poem Defense of Fort McHenry ends in a question. Written in 1814, what would become the Star Spangled Banner (and named the U.S. National Anthem in 1931) is a glorification of the events in Baltimore a long, long time ago.
Western Civilization no longer exerts any influence in Baltimore, with the city regressing to the black mean.
What's left of any remnants of civilization in 65 percent black Baltimore has retreated behind plexiglas to try and survive the onslaught of blackness engulfing the city.
The real question though isn't the interesting one posed at the end of the poem that would become the U.S. National Anthem; the real question is if police should even care anymore, knowing America is now a nation dedicated not to the advancement of freedom, but the perpetual promotion of blackness?