(Slate) – You have a choice: You can have brutal, abusive policing. Or you can have no policing at all.
That’s the implied message from the Baltimore police officers engaged in a deliberate slowdown, which started after prosecutors charged six of their colleagues in the death of Freddie Gray. Across the city, resident say, there are fewer police on patrol, fewer cops on the corner, fewer people on the beat. “They’re not coming because they’re afraid,” said one man in an interview with NPR. He says police have ignored dozens of calls about drug dealers in his neighborhood. Other Baltimoreans echo his claims: “People wake up with shots through their windows. Police used to sit on every corner, on the top of the block. These days? They’re nowhere.”
Evidence of the slowdown is in the arrest rate. From April to May, arrests declined 43 percent, bringing arrests down to their lowest point in three years. The year-over-year figures are striking: A force that arrested 3,801 people in May of 2014 arrested just 1,177 people in May of 2015.
Less policing has meant more crime, especially in the violent neighborhoods of East and West Baltimore. There were 42 homicides and 100 shootings in May, making it the single deadliest month—in absolute and relative terms—since 1971. Shootings are up, as are assaults and other violent crimes.