live to be moreThis morning [primarily out of boredom], I read the Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety Committee’s Live To Be More Gun Violence Reduction plan. This plan is broken down into 5 different “pillars”. The five pillars are:

  1. Be More Preventative
  2. Stop Shooting & Start Living To Be More
  3. Be More About Jobs & Opportunity
  4. Be More About Neighborhoods
  5. Support The BPD To Be More

On page 2 of this strategy, the Public Safety Committee acknowledges that this proposed strategy focuses primarily on long term actions, but lists some immediate actions that can be taken to “save lives in Baltimore”. There are as follows:

  1. Adopt a new Baltimore Police Department patrol shift schedule by negotiating shift schedule out of union contract immediately.
  2. Adopt a recruitment and hiring plan to fill all open positions at BPD.
  3. Reinstitute Baltimore Gun Stat.
  4. Launch a Youth Safety Network.
  5. Expand Safe Streets.
  6. Support citizen led crime reduction initiatives.

On page 3 of this strategy, in big, bold, yellow numbers, it states that 662 people were murdered in Baltimore from 2015-2016, while 1304 more were harmed in non-fatal shootings. Their vision is a thriving Baltimore where all Baltimoreans have access to quality educational, economic and other opportunities that provide them all with the opportunity to live to be more. Their mission is to work with agencies and organizations across Baltimore to develop and put in place a comprehensive strategy that reduces gun violence in Baltimore.

Okay. Alright. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this strategy.

On page 6 of the strategy, it says on the top of the page, Be More Preventative: Attend To Be More. On this page, it speaks on chronic absence in schools. An estimated 18,000 Baltimore City public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade miss a month or more of school each year. Their objective, reducing the number of chronically absent students in Baltimore City by 2025 by 50%.

The plan failed to acknowledge how it would do such, while also failing to acknowledge the reasons behind such high absentee rates. Kids aren’t just missing schools just because.

On page 7 of the strategy, it says on top of the page, Be More Preventative: Youth Gun Violence Reduction. On this page, it states that between 2015-2016, 94 young people under the age of 18 were victims of non-fatal shootings. In addition to that, it also states that 15 young people are already suspects in Non Fatal shootings thus far in 2017. The objective as listed at the bottom of the page, is to “Reduce the number the number of Youth Gun Violence victims and suspects in Baltimore, and attack the spread [of] the disease of gun violence through families.

Why reduce the violence when we can completely get rid of it? Even if completely getting rid of the violence isn’t practical, it should still be something that we strive for. We shouldn’t be aiming to REDUCE violence, we should be aiming to ENDING violence. Changing our use of vocabulary  around violence and violence prevention makes all the difference as well.

Also, NOTHING on this page mentioned why people kill, why people feel the need to be in possession of a gun, and why people feel as though owning a gun comes with a certain level of importance and superiority in their communities. Not surprising!

On page 8 of the strategy, it says on the top of the page, Be More Preventative: Responsible Fatherhood. Their objective is to “increase the number of engaged fathers within families in targeted areas of Baltimore and assist them in maintaining/ improving relationships and parental actions.”

Cool. But The Public Safety Committee failed to give any statistics on how many Black men in Baltimore City are arrested over petty drug crimes, minor motor vehicle issues or made up/fabricated crimes from corrupt Baltimore City Police officers, all of which prevents the father from being home with their families. Again, not surprising.

Moving on.

I found page 12, entitled Be More Read More to be a helpful solution if implemented correctly. I feel that children [when given a good book to read], will put the time in to read. I’ve had COUNTLESS conversations with children who have shown interest in the books that I read, but hesitate to tell me what they are being forced to read in school. Not to mention, the books that I read are likely not even permitted in schools. I support Be More Read More [again, if it’s done right].

There was nothing stated in this strategy that proposed the ways in which they would push for better books in schools.

Page 16 of the strategy talks about Lead Abatement. NOW WE’RE TALKING. Their objective is to Increase Baltimore’s Lead Abatement by strengthening regulations and increasing inspection efforts. This is good. This is real, real good.

They will measure the performance of this implementation by the “number of inspectors hired and trained, the number of inspections completed, the number of regulations enhanced and the number of fines/notices given.”

Now, can we PLEASE be put under a State of Emergency? It is long overdue.

Page 22 speaks of Gun Crime Intelligence. Here’s a sentence that caught my attention:

“This focus however, should go beyond the typical targeting of bad guys with guns and include tracing violent guns, ammunition and those dealing them through a Gun Crime Intelligence Center.” Sounds good. But as we all know [or should know], gun distributing goes far beyond “citizens’.

Can you say, the police?

The proposal basically states that the Baltimore City Police [along with the ATF, the States Attorney Marilyn Mosby & her office, the FBI, the DEA, Maryland State Police, Baltimore County Police, Anne Arundel Police & a few others] will be responsible in tracking these guns. I am not saying that the police are responsible for EVERY gun placed on the street, but as of today, we STILL don’t have the full confidence that Baltimore Police destroys all confiscated guns. Baltimore Police also has a history of leaving their guns in mailboxes and on street corners and sidewalks. [Not even making this up, y’all. It’s real.] How can we trust these people to rid our streets of guns? Prisons are BUILT off of criminalizing Black and brown bodies. I don’t apologize for my beliefs, and I don’t apologize for my skepticism of the police and the FBI.

The objective of this proposal: “Enforcement and investigations of VROs that lead to state/federal prosecutions and jail time. Their performance measures are as follows: “Number of Federal Exile Prosecutions, Number of Group Indictments, Number of guns link to multiple violent incidents, Number of Group Convictions.”

[deep sigh.] Moving on.

On page 32 of this strategy, they discuss Neighborhood Stat [or City Stat]. City stat is not clearly explained in this document, but it is said to have been “taken to cities across the country to ensure that their government is functioning at a high level of efficiency.” However, in recent years the office’s promotion has declined due to staff and administration changes. Mayor Pugh has “vowed to revamp city Stat” to have an “even greater impact across city government.”

“Baltimore’s City Stat model has declined due to staff and administration changes.”

Isn’t that what Sociologists are for? But okay.

Their objective is to “Institute a neighborhood stat to create a partnership between government and citizens to ensure that residents of city neighborhoods lives are being improved by city services.”

I will not go through every single page of this document [the time does not allow me to], but when addressing crime and crime prevention strategies, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that were missing or not discussed in this strategy.

Things NOT mentioned:

-Food deserts!

-Lack of reliable transit. They mentioned lack of jobs [which can contribute to crime & violence], but did not mention those individuals WITH jobs, but cannot get to them in a timely manner due to horrid transportation.

-Transit equity, which includes outlets for children to ride their bicycles, and the funding of organizations that already exist to make Black bicyclists in the city afford new bikes and/or bike repair equipment. It also didn’t discuss Bikeshare, and how Bikeshare has a bigger effect on Black communities and their methods of getting around then what is being perceived. These things attribute to crime and violence also.

-Developers who only develop in the white L, while leaving those in the Black butterfly with little to nothing. This also contributes to violence and crime.

-It mentions basketball initiatives which I wholeheartedly believe can bring unity and togetherness in the community [if done right]. But I’m curious to see how the Public Safety Committee plans to branch off of that. Start of with Basketball, yes, but how else can you include those youth’s who may not be into basketball?

-How far back will the gun tracking go?

-What Psychologists, Sociologists, Dietitians and/or Public Health experts have you reached out to while planning this strategy?

-Why is defunding the police not an option in this strategy? I already know the reason why, but still. We spend over half a billion dollars on Baltimore police every year. Half a billion. Half a billion. Half a billion. Half a billion. Half a billion. And crime doesn’t seem to be ceasing. Baltimore Police plans to have at least 100 cadets on staff with at least 50% of those cadets living in Baltimore City. Only half? What are we giving you all of this money for, if crime isn’t even ceasing? If you can’t manage half a billion dollars, then maybe we need to DEFUND THE POLICE, and give some of that money to organizations who can use that money better.

-Did you reach out to any activists and/or organizers about this strategy?

-I am also very skeptical of councilmembers like Leon Pinkett and Isaac Schleifer take part in this strategy, knowing full well that they are both vehemently in approval of the one year mandatory minimum sentencing bill for those found in possession with a gun, a bill that is already proven to be ineffective, reactionary, counterproductive, and is indeed [contrary to popular belief] a “lock me up” bill.

There were some things in this strategy that I think [if done right] could be very beneficial to Black Baltimore. Talks of mentorship, Lead abatement, trauma enforced practices, the Be More Read More initiative, youth being seen as citizens, Baltimore Youth Works and blight elimination. And it wouldn’t be fair to post this, without acknowledging those things also being listed as a solution in the strategy.

But, there’s some obvious tweaking that needs to happen. Here is the link to the strategy in it’s entirety down below.