With Baltimore's homicide rate slowing since mid-July, Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark released statistics at a criminal justice meeting yesterday that, he says, indicate his crime-fighting strategies are working.
From Jan. 1 through Sept. 6, the number of 911 calls has dropped about 9 percent vs. the same period last year, from 896,852 to 819,401, Clark said.
Disorderly conduct calls have fallen 21 percent, drug dealing calls have fallen 9 percent, reports of guns discharging have fallen 14 percent and gambling calls have fallen 21 percent. Shootings are also down this year, from 434 to 387.
Through yesterday, the city recorded 191 killings, putting it on pace for 275 by year's end.
That would still be higher than last year's total of 253 but is lower than the projected total in mid-July, when the city was on track to record nearly 300 killings for the year.
"The corners are clearer," Clark said after the monthly meeting of the city's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a local group that includes criminal justice officials and was created to promote cooperation among public-safety agencies.
Clark said his officers have issued about 14,000 criminal citations this year - up from about 5,000 through the same period last year. He is pushing his officers to write more citations, a centerpiece of his crime-fighting plans, to keep them on the street longer instead of spending time arresting and processing suspects on minor offenses.
He also says he hopes troublemakers grow weary of collecting citations and move indoors, reducing the chance for violence on the city's streets.
Clark acknowledged at the coordinating council meeting yesterday that his officers were not including enough information on the citation forms, forcing prosecutors to drop a large percentage of the cases. Clark said he is starting a training effort next week to fix the problem.
Prosecutors dropped 31 percent of the citation cases heard in early-resolution court in June, the last month for which statistics were available. On Monday in early-resolution court, prosecutors dropped 160 of 279 cases, saying the citations did not contain enough detail to go to trial.
State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said at the council meeting yesterday that some of her prosecutors have caseloads of 300 citations each. "It gets to be a little unwieldy," she said.
Clark said his department is scheduled to begin issuing civil citations in early December. That process should alleviate some of the large caseloads in criminal court, he said.
The City Council passed a law last month establishing civil citations, which are heard in civil court and carry only fines.