JULIET LINDERMAN, Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore police and civic leaders launched a partnership Monday with five federal agencies that will embed their special agents with city homicide detectives, bidding to quell an upswing in homicides and other violent crime in that city.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was joined by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Acting Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, and U.S. representatives Barbara Mikulski, among others, to announce the start of the Baltimore Federal Homicide Task Force.
“We have doubled down on our commitment to focus on repeat violent offenders, and that’s what we continue to do in a more collaborative and intentional way,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We are increasing the resources, we are increasing the collaboration and increasing the partnership at all levels. This is our next step in our all-hands-on-deck approach to decreasing violence.”
The partnership is embedding two special agents from each of the five crime-fighting federal agencies on the streets with homicide detectives for the next 60 days. The agencies are the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The homicide rate in Baltimore began to skyrocket in May, when the city saw 42 homicides in a single month. There was a brief dip in June, with 29 killings, however the number shot up again in July, breaking a 43-year record. The uptick comes after rioting in the spring over the death of Freddie Gray, the black man critically injured in police custody.
For several years “American cities have not seen an uptick in homicides we’re seeing in 2015,” Davis, the acting police commissioner, said Monday. “Now we’re back at the table, and our cities are looking at Baltimore. They want to know what Baltimore’s going to do about it.”
Davis had said Sunday that more people are arming themselves on the streets, and that the department has seized 20 percent more guns than it had by this time last year. Davis also said the influx of prescription pills — 32 pharmacies were looted during the April 27 riot and nearly 300,000 doses of prescription medication stolen — has contributed to Baltimore’s spiking violence.
Mikulski said local and federal partnerships are powerful, adding special agents don’t just bring their badges to the streets but also their “know how.”
Mikulski noted, for instance, that the ATF has a specialized crime lab to study weapons and the bullets they fire.
“We can get those bullets and see: are they from a single killer? Are they from a gang? And when that FBI agent is shoulder-to-shoulder with the homicide unit, he brings all the knowledge from Quantico. We’ve got the whole country on the side of Baltimore now,” Mikulski added.
Mosby attributed to the spiking violence to violent repeat offenders, “a small number of individuals responsible for the majority of the crimes.” Mosby warned those inclined to reach for a weapon that “we are going to go after you with everything that we have. Collaboratively, we will get the job done and convict you.”
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, in his remarks Monday, appealed to those considering committing acts of violence in Baltimore. He pleaded with them to put down their guns and “allow people to live.”
“The only people making good now are the morticians,” the Maryland Democrat said. “And I say our city is better than that. It’s not just the murders and the shootings. I’m begging you, put your guns down.”
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