Abell president: Demand accountability from Baltimore police, officials

Abell president: Demand accountability from Baltimore police, officials

Baltimore faces many challenges, but I believe most Baltimoreans would agree that the city’s No. 1 challenge is its murder (and shooting) rate.

When the subject is raised many will answer that the high rate of violence is caused by poverty, so to address the violence, we must address the “root causes” of poverty: inadequate education, poor housing, non-existent jobs, racial discrimination, etc. This is true. But we must acknowledge that while the murder rate in Baltimore has spiked, these challenging “root causes,” while real and unacceptable, are no worse today than they were four years ago before our current spike began. The unemployment rate in the city is down, more vacant housing has been demolished or rehabilitated and the school graduation rate is up. Further, the ability of interventions in these areas to lower the crime rate, even if we can agree on what exactly we want these interventions to be, is long term. The violent crime rate must be reduced today.

We must accept that violent crime is also a root cause of poverty. Indeed, violent crime drives the very unemployment, disinvestment, trauma and poor school performance we see. Violence is both an outcome of poverty and a cause of it. Thus, it is not a question of focusing either on “root causes” or on violent crime. Violent crime is a root cause – one that has dramatically worsened over the last four years.

The city has acted in the past to reduce violent crime by deploying a range of strategies and investing millions of dollars in them. Each mayor and police commissioner has put forward his or her own plan for stopping the violence. But missing from these conversations is the evidence base behind the plans and the accountability measures for determining (and transparently explaining) why the plans change.

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Source: Baltimore Sun, Written by Robert Embry Jr., president of the Abell Foundation.