July 12, 2021

Maryland’s congressional delegation meets with Baltimore mayor, police commissioner to discuss ways to quell violence


By:  Jessica Anderson

Source: Baltimore Sun

Members of the Maryland congressional delegation doubled-down in promising their support for reducing Baltimore’s violence at a Monday meeting with city leaders.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin said he called for the delegation to meet with Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison at City Hall in response to the “unacceptable” level of violence in the city.

“Our strong desire is to help you bring down the violence in Baltimore. We know it’s not an easy situation. The current level of violence is unacceptable,” Cardin told Scott during opening remarks before the meeting continued behind closed doors.

The meeting — the first held in-person in City Hall since the start of the pandemic — came as Baltimore continues to see an accelerated rate of homicides and non-fatal shootings. As of Monday afternoon, there have been 182 people killed in the city so far this year, 10 more than the same time last year, and 367 others have been shot but survived, a 13% increase, according to police.

Among the victims this year are two employees with the antiviolence group known as Safe Streets. Kenyell Wilson, a Cherry Hill Safe Streets outreach worker, was killed on July 1, and Dante Barksdale, one of the program’s outreach coordinators, was shot to death in January.

The city has seen more than 300 homicides a year since 2015.

Scott noted that cities across the county are attempting to address violence at a time when many communities want solutions that go beyond simply adding more police officers and increasing enforcement.

“I believe defining what policing and public safety looks like are the most consequential challenges facing mayors across the country,” the mayor said. “It’s a challenge that I have accepted head on.”

Cardin and Scott were joined by fellow Democrats Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume as well as Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner. Members of Scott’s administration, including Sunny Schnitzer, the deputy mayor of public safety, and Shantay Jackson, director of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, also participated.

A city spokesman said Monday that Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby were not invited to the meeting because it was centered around Scott’s previous talks with federal officials about Baltimore’s crime reduction efforts.

After brief remarks to reporters, the group met behind closed doors.

Afterward, Van Hollen told reporters that the discussion largely focused on the need for a “comprehensive strategy.”

“I think our overall message in conversation was doing one thing is not enough,” he said. “You need a comprehensive strategy, and that’s what we hope to deliver.”

Scott said that the leaders would continue to focus efforts on holding those committing violence responsible, but also providing support for community organizations such as Roca, which targets at-risk youth, and other programs “focusing on the people and neighborhoods that have been forgotten.”

“We will still, and always hold people accountable who are committing acts of violence, who are trafficking weapons into the city, and hold those folks accountable,” Scott said. “It’s not about doing either or; it’s about doing both.”

Cardin said the delegation also is focused on efforts to “deal with the most violent groups and root them out and get them out of the neighborhood.” At the same time, the group said it intends to provide more support for community partnerships so there are services available to residents who need them.

“There are a lot of issues that we have to deal with, and the federal delegation is committed to working with the mayor to provide support and help to bring down the violence in Baltimore,” Cardin said. “We have confidence that we can do this. We know it is not easy but there is not simple answer to this problem.”