On Monday night, two shootings in the city of Baltimore. On Tuesday night, three shootings.
In the city of Baltimore, police know such moments of nocturnal violence by a phrase: pretty slow nights.
At latest count, the city’s up to 246 homicides this year – a higher figure than New York, which has 10 times Baltimore’s population.
Over the past decade in Baltimore, there have been precisely two thousand, four hundred sixty-nine homicides.
That is not a misprint.
And so, leaping into action after a mere 2,469 killings, we had some of the great thinkers in the state – politicians and prosecutors, health officials and religious leaders and police types – gather in Annapolis this week to swap ideas on fighting violence in Baltimore.
Putting all their heads together, including some of the truly brilliant thinkers in the entire state, what they came up with was a festival of clichés.
Or, as Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Bobby Zirkin put it, “In my opinion, this takes a holistic approach. It’s going to require solutions that span criminal justice, juvenile justice, education, mental health, drug treatment.”
Hey, thanks for narrowing it down, senator.
City leaders went for the usual answer: more money.
That, plus, as Mayor Catherine Pugh declared, “We will focus on smart policing, improving training, modernization.”
Words, just words.
Those of us living in the city – or working in it, or visiting it – know, of course, that there is more than one Baltimore. There’s the city where you can stroll about and feel as comfortable as you would in any suburban area.
And there’s the city that bleeds.
That’s the city where you find the guns, but not the parents. It’s the city where the father has disappeared, and the mother’s working for low wages, and all notions of a functioning family are so fractured that the kids have turned to an alternative family for comfort and support – a street gang, from which springs all manner of crime and violence.
That’s the city of Baltimore where the public schools have all but ceased educating its children. That’s the city of abandoned houses and street-corner real estate, formerly neighborhood grocery stores, that are now package goods operations – or boarded-up hovels adding to each block’s sense of hopelessness.
That’s the city where entire neighborhoods have fallen to the drug traffickers, and we still imagine, as a nation, that we can imprison our way out of such trouble. We have five times the number of Maryland prison inmates as we did when drug traffic was first beginning to spread – and yet we continue to think a “war” on drugs can be won.
Why bother to hold hearings on violence when we’ve learned nothing from all the years of drugs fueling the vast majority of crime?
Why bother holding hearings on violence when, year after year, you have political figures across the entire country who fail to institute laws to keep guns off the streets?
Why bother holdings hearings on violence when, year after year, no one wants to talk about holding parents accountable for their children?
Top photo: Crime scene tape (Photo by Brandon Anderson, Flickr)
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