Tessa Hill-Aston is president of the local chapter of the NAACP. (Gene Sweeney Jr. / Baltimore…)
Baltimore's NAACP president said the city's gun violence affects a wide range of residents, even if the victims themselves tend to be involved in the drug trade.
On Monday, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said gun violence was "localized" and "not throughout the city as a whole." He said "80 to 85 percent" of the victims are black men involved in the drug trade, and said "everyday citizens" saw crime, such as burglary and car break-ins, drop in 2013.
Through a spokesman, Batts has declined to clarify or elaborate on the comment.
Asked for reaction, Tessa Hill-Aston, the president of Baltimore's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said "all deaths are a serious issue because each one of those people are someone's loved one."
"Most of it is drug-related, but there's a lot more to all that," she said. She said "every day people" affected by gun violence include the mothers, wives, siblings and children of gun violence victims.
She extended the scope of those affected to include those impacted when someone whose relative is murdered doesn't show up to work the next day. "Everybody has a family member that works somewhere that impacts the community," she said.
Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, the past NAACP president and a West Baltimore resident, said he has a "great deal of confidence" in Batts. But he said the violence on the west side affected more than just those who were hit by bullets.
"We need more coverage, we need more foot soldiers, we need more patrol people on the ground," Cheatham said, noting that the Western District saw the most homicides in the city.
Cheatham said earlier this year, he filed a police report after being threatened by a drug dealer who he asked to clear out of the neighborhood.
City Councilman Carl Stokes said in the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, many older residents fear gun violence and do not have the means to relocate.
"The ordinary citizens who are living in neighborhoods that are distressed, they are very much continuing to be victims of crime either directly by being injured, or living in fear and not wanting to venture out of let their kids play outside," Stokes said.
Stokes said he hoped the comment was a "bad attempt at putting a good spin" on the city's crime numbers.
A review of data on Open Baltimore shows almost 7 in 10 of the city's 225 neighborhoods saw at least one shooting or homicide in 2013.
The most incidents were seen in Belair-Edison (17), Sandtown-Winchester (16), Franklin Square (15), and Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello and Broadway East (14 each).