Baltimore's top cop talks crime
Yesterday, city police officials held a news conference to discuss a rise in homicides in East
Baltimore. It turned into a wide-ranging discussion on crime what police are doing about it. Here is a partial transcript of the 40-minute briefing:
Maj. Terrence P. McLarney, head of the homicide unit:
"So far, in 09, we've had nine violent incidents resulting in death. All told, there are 11 victims. ... of those 9 incidents, we've obtained a warrant for homicide for the very first murder of the year,
Luzerne and Monument, which occurred just a couple hours after midnight.
In the remaining 7 incidents, we have solid leads in several of them. We're looking particularly at the double murder in the 1100 block of Orleans that occurred January 2, and we're also working diligently on the murder which actually occurred on the third, of Mr. Tian Wang, who was delivering food when he was a victim of a robbery and gunned down. We also feel we're moving forward on the murder that occurred on the 3700 block of Reisterstown Road.
We have help from VCID [a task force assigned to high-crime areas]; they have put operations squads at our disposal in the Eastern District, and we're working in conjunction with the Violent Crime Impact Team on the majority of these murders. So far this year, we've arrested six for homicide.
"We still have cases going from 08. ... We are working diligently with everything the department has to give us on this rash of murders that has occurred since Jan. 1, and we're cautiously optimistic on several of the cases."
Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III:
"Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming. I'm going to run through a few things here that I think you might find instructive, and to talk about the start of the New Year, where we finished last year and that's going on in the city at least as far as we see. We finished up 2008 with a 20 year low in homicides. And, we said all throughout last year, many of you in this room, and on the streets of Baltimore, we said that we weren't declaring any victory. We certainly at the conclusion of the year did not count that as a victory. We counted that as an accomplishment, but not a victory."
Moving into 2009, we have to look at, most certainly, the last several months of violence in the city. We can't be maneuvering in and out of police tactics at random. We have to look over periods of time and gauge the most effective use of our resources and talents. And so, looking out over the past three months and looking at some trends of things that we've seen, we've made some adjustments around the city.
Certainly we've talked about guns, you've heard us talking about guns for the last 18 months. We've engineered some very good strategies locally in partnership with the City Council and the mayor's leadership to enact not only some good local laws, as it pertains to the gun offender registry, which we think is very successful, and the 48 hour rule on lost and stolen guns, which we anticipate will pay dividends as well. But a lot of work remains to be done there. We have done our best and we will continue to do our best, especially with the legislative session looming, to ramp up statewide attention on this gun violence issue as it relates to our city. We have focused on bad guys with guns, but we really need everybody to get behind this notion that gun offenders belong in jail, and we want to keep them in jail for as long as possible. We're training our officers better, we're motivating our officers to get guns, we're doing everything we can within our lane of travel to focus on bad guys with guns, but we really need all of our partners, all of the partners, to step up and help support our efforts to reduce violence in Baltimore by focusing very stridently on these bad guys with guns.
A quick snapshot of our year so far: since the beginning of the year, these brave men and women of the police department have recovered 87 guns. We've charged 37 people with gun offenses. I think that's a pretty good start. We're seven full days into the New Year and that's a doggone pretty good start. Last night, what our night looked like in terms of gun enforcement, down in South Baltimore, in Brooklyn, some officers did a search and seizure warrant on St. Margaret Street and recovered four handguns from the house. Four handguns. This was at 7:30 p.m., along with 209 pieces of cocaine, 3/4 ounces of cocaine, and 1 1/2 ounce of heroin, and $4,500. It’s not going to change the world in drug dealing, but we took four guns out of a very volatile area. That's focusing our energy in the right places, where we need to be.
That would be a good grab, but at 9:30 last night, in the 2400 block of Loyola Southway, where we've experience domestic violence and deployed some of our resources, street officers encountered two young people, a young man and a young woman -- the man had a suspicious bulge that drew their attention to him. As they exited their car to investigate, the man, Steven Cox, threw down 4 ounces of marijuana and 40 ziplock bags. The young lady continued on -- she tried to get into a house and was unsuccessful in doing so. Just before they grabbed her, she discarded a .22 caliber handgun.
Again, that's a good grab, but that's not all.
The East Side of Baltimore, where we've been hit with several violent incidents, we've redeployed some of our violent crime initiative teams, and three teams were in action over there last night. One did a search warrant in 200 block of N. Port St. and recovered a .22 caliber rifle, an ounce of cocaine and about 30 pieces of crack cocaine. A second squad got information from a source about an individual armed with a handgun. After doing an investigation, they weren't able to find the person, but they found the gun in the 700 block of N. Luzerne. These are streets that are very familiar to us.
Finally, a third squad working in conjunction with homicide and CID detectives was able to locate two people who were potential witnesses to a homicide in the 200 block of South Clinton Street. We're posting people and moving our resources around and trying to make effective use of everything at our disposal, not the least of which is some of our camera enforcement.
Last night in the Eastern, we made 19 arrests using camera monitors, an initiative we put together very quickly."
Bealefeld then talked about Linden Lounge and the decision by a Circuit Court Judge, Lynn Stewart, affirming the city's padlocking of the Reservoir Hill establishment last year, citing frequent violence and drug dealing.
"Judge Lynn Stewart affirmed our stance on the padlocking of Linden Lounge, not without controversy, and certainly the proprietors explored their legal options. We're encouraged by Judge Stewart's ruling, primarily because what we're trying to say to business owners in Baltimore is that they have to be responsible partners for public safety. This is a very affirming message of what we've long contended: that the police department should not have to act as a de facto security guard for people engaged in bad business practices who aren’t committed to public safety in this city. Everyone has an obligation to that.
You can't open up a place and allows anarchy to exist. We want to work with businesses, we reach out, and we want businesses to succeed. It would be counter productive for us not to want people to come to Baltimore to grow their businesses, but the mayor has made it clear, and we're working very energetically to hold everyone accountable for violence in Baltimore. Everyone has a stake in that.
I can't go around saying teach kids to read, clean up lots, engage kids in baseball leagues, and don't do something comprehensively. Bad businesses should take notice: you're not going to get a pass. And every soon I'll be back at this podium talking about other businesses that we're going to padlock. That will be coming shortly. Judge us on our actions, judge us on what we're doing. The homicides -- recently we're experiencing a spike, we've had 11 murders over the past 7 full days -- but again I'm encouraged by what I'm seeing. The homicide detectives are engaged, we put several of the murders that occurred this year down already. A tricky case in the Northeast District that they moved quickly on. There is an individual we want for the first murder of the year, where a cousin wound up shooting his other cousin. We have a warrant for that individual. Three people we're looking for murder right now. In two of those cases, we're sitting on their houses. Literally, as we speak.
We did a good job [with priority warrant service). It's easy to say prioritize robbery warrants,
shooting warrants, but we engineered a formula to look at the offender. If there are open failure to appears, but the offender has a horrendous background, we want to work quickly to capture those guys. We identified 550 priority warrants on Dec. 1 and so far we've made 352 arrests off that priority warrant list. I've got to hand it to the men and women of this police department, they're adopting the tactics we put in front of them and they're pursuing them with great vigor.
On who in the city should step up:
"We're going to go back to the state legislature talking about things like diminution credits for
people on gun offenses in jail. We're going to be talking about holding people accountable on a variety of offenses and not just handgun violations, you know, the robbers, people out there doing armed robberies, we really have to focus on them as well, and include them in the giant pool. I think politicians are one, is an easy one. Courts is another one. [Baltimore State's Attorney] Pat Jessamy and [Maryland U.S. Attorney ] Rod Rosenstein have been fantastic partners to Fred Bealefeld and this police department. They have been.
But again we need everybody ... to step up and understand they have a big role here. We need parole and probation to continue to do what they do, but really focus on these bad guys with guns and make them a priority in their life. I can't, I mean look, what I have at my disposal is 2,500 dedicated cops to go out here and try to make this city safe. I gave you three examples just from last night. They're willing to do that. They need help. they need people to call in when they see guys with guns. They need people to call in when they know people have guns in their houses. We need that kind of help too. We need religious leaders, community leaders talking to people in this city and saying, 'You've got to knock this off.'
It can't just be the mayor and the police commissioner standing up and trying to engage people's morality about violence in this city. We need everybody to step and do their part, and if they support what we're saying about handgun enforcement and bad guys with guns, they need to make phone calls to their elected officials and say, 'Daggonnit we support these guys, and give them the help they need.'
"You've heard me talk about these guns. Eighty-seven guns, 87 guns in the first seven days in the streets of Baltimore? Come on. That's the commonality here. We've got people riding around, talking around and standing around with guns. We mentioned this yesterday at the mayor's briefing. There was a man on downtown Water Street just a couple nights ago who's car window had been broken out. He was jumping up and down yelling about the fact his car was broken into. As he was jumping up and down, a gun fell out of his waistband."
Here are some documents listing the most recent homicide arrests and a letter about the padlocking of Linden Lounge: