The extra police officers sent to the Inner Harbor and downtown to combat unruly youths and crime this past weekend recorded 40 arrests, including more than 10 for drug possession, and two handguns seized.
It's a snapshot of crime covering a single, extended weekend, the latest of what is promised to be a summertime-long redeployment of up to 50 officers Thursday night through Sunday mornings to combat crime. It brings the total number of officers in that area to more than 70.
Police released the statistics, including a 14 percent drop in violent crime in the Central District compared with the first five months of last year, even as another state lawmaker added his voice to criticism that Baltimore leaders have covered up mayhem to protect the image of the premier tourist attraction.
"We're the economic engine that helps drive a prosperous city," said Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, referring to suburbanites. He said the mayor should request assistance from the Maryland State Police.
"My constituents don't want to go down to the city anymore," he said. "Why wouldn't you do the right thing and call the governor, admit you're overwhelmed and ask for help?"
But city officials say they don't need outside reinforcements.
"Individuals who intend to come downtown to participate in unruly and illegal behavior will be swiftly arrested and held accountable," Deputy Police Commissioner of Operations Anthony Barksdale said in a statement, citing the statistics from this past weekend.
The weekend deployments came after hundreds of fighting teens converged on the downtown on St. Patrick's Day. The full extent of the violence was revealed weeks later when police dispatch tapes showed a more chaotic scene than police had initially described.
In the past few weeks, a group of youths attacked two men headed to work downtown, and a mob of youths assaulted the owner of a Light Street convenience store. Last month, a student from Polytechnic Institute told police he was beaten by separate groups of juveniles from rival Digital Harbor High School near the 1st Mariner Arena.
State Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a Republican representing Baltimore and Harford counties, weighed in last month with comments referring to "black youth mobs" and asking the governor to declare the Inner Harbor a "no travel zone" because of the dangers.
Brochin added his voice to the debate on Wednesday, going on WBAL-Radio's show with Clarence Mitchell IV, known as "C4." In an interview, he condemned McDonough's choice of words, but said his colleague's underlying message was correct.
Knocking on doors in his district, the senator said, "I'm hearing the same thing — they're looking at videos of kids massing and they're frightened. All [the mayor] is doing is denying there is a problem. I don't think they realize how much they've turned off our constituents."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake countered with an appearance on 98-Rock, in which she said responding to Brochin and McDonough is like "dealing with hecklers." Her office has described the complaints from McDonough as racially charged.
City officials have been reluctant to debate the two lawmakers, saying their initiatives are sufficient to deal with any problems or surge in crowds. Police will be tested next week during the celebration of the War of 1812, when hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected to gaze at the tall ships and watch the Blue Angels fly over Fort McHenry.
Baltimore leader say they have no plans to call in the state police to help patrol, though troopers are frequently in the city on task forces and help out during major events such as last year's Grand Prix and the June 15 Sailabration. In addition, as part of the weekend enforcement, city police partner with sheriff's deputies and officers from the school system and Maryland Transit Administration.
City Hall officials point to crime statistics showing a 17 percent drop in nonfatal shootings so far this year, along with reductions in crime in the downtown area. Overall crime in the Central District is down 7 percent, and gun crime is down 38 percent, according to the most recent numbers available.
But a recent spate across the city of shootings and homicides — including five deaths Monday and Tuesday, and three more over the weekend — has driven this year's slaying count to 96, compared to 87 at this time last year.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times