Let me begin by stating, unequivocally, that this is not meant as a criticism of either our city administration, the City Council, the Baltimore Police Department, the State’s Attorney’s office or the good people of our great city. To be sure, none of us is perfect, but then none of us is to blame either.
Without a doubt, there is room for significant improvement in how we govern. That said, in the midst of headlines that paint Baltimore as a city out of control, we need nothing less than a collaborative, blameless joint venture among all our institutions and people. Let’s just work together to get this done.
Solutions, long overdue, are complicated and likely to be expensive. They’ll require our commitment, vision and creativity at levels our city government hasn’t yet attained. Time’s up. We — all of us — need to step up and get the City of Baltimore back on track to a better, safer future.
According to police department data, in 2014 there were 2,123 serious, so-called “Part 1” crimes in my district. On the average, that’s almost one every four hours — not including unreported and other less serious “Part 2” crimes. That’s 2,123 crimes too many. That the 5th District may be one of the safest districts in the city is no consolation whatsoever.
Of all the neighborhoods that comprise my district, only three account for 40 percent of these serious crimes. A fourth neighborhood’s numbers are so low as to suggest under-reporting by the residents and/or police.
Of these more serious crimes, almost 80 percent may be related to unemployment. While there are certainly other reasons crime occurs, the relationship between crime and chronically poor economic conditions underlines the necessity for a comprehensive solution that addresses the full spectrum of social and economic problems facing our community.
So what am I going to do about it? To tell you the truth, I’m not entirely sure what our solutions will look like. With the help of our police, we need to identify — and publicize — the specific locations and root causes of each type of crime in my district. Talking about crime in terms of generalities isn’t sufficient.
Then we’ll work together — our police department, residents, merchants and other businesses — to design and implement the programs to make all our streets and homes safe. Whatever it takes, we’ll get it done. Because we have no choice.
In the process, I will take the lead to bring new employers to my district, to reduce unemployment and to raise income for the families who are struggling. And we’re going to turn the abandoned homes, stores and other structures into productive properties.
And I’ll take the lead in getting whatever money we need — from the city, state and federal governments, as well as from private corporate interests. Our goal in the 5th District is to cut the incidence of crime in half in the next four years or sooner, and in half again in the four years after that — and so on, relentlessly, until the threat to our families, merchants and other employers has been minimized.
We’re going to do this because it’s what my constituents need and deserve — and because that’s what government is for.
Rochelle “Rikki” Spector represents Baltimore’s 5th District in the City Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.