Baltimore Has Been Scaling Back Policing For A Decade. The Results Have Been Deadly.
A Baltimore City police emblem on a shirt during a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 25, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

For the past decade, Baltimore has been cutting its police force in what the City Journal described as “a fateful experiment.”

“A decade ago, Baltimoreans became lab rats in a fateful experiment: their elected officials decided to treat the city’s long-running crime problem with many fewer cops. In effect, Baltimore began to defund its police and engage in de-policing long before those terms gained popular currency,” the City Journal reported last week. “This experiment has been an abject failure. Since 2011, nearly 3,000 Baltimoreans have been murdered—one of every 200 city residents over that period. The annual homicide rate has climbed from 31 per 100,000 residents to 56—ten times the national rate. And 93 percent of the homicide victims of known race over this period were black.”

These numbers don’t appear to have affected the city’s plans when it comes to law enforcement, City Journal reported. Newly elected Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, for example, promised a five-year plan that would cut the police budget. As The Daily Wire previously reported, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby also announced the city would no longer prosecute low-level crimes such as drug possession, prostitution, or minor traffic violations following an experimental year of refusing to prosecute such crimes in order to keep COVID-19 from spreading among the prison population.

Crime rates reportedly dropped when Baltimore adopted the plan at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, though it is unclear how much of that was due to people staying home and businesses being closed during the pandemic. Mosby said at a press conference in March that in the past 12 months, since police stopped prosecuting low-level offenses, violent crime dropped by 20% and property crime declined 36%. The homicide rate remained steady, though there were slightly fewer in 2020. Mosby also said researchers at Johns Hopkins University found reductions in police calls regarding drugs and prostitution.

The City Journal maintains that Baltimore’s decade-long experiment into de-policing hasn’t worked, in part due to a misapplication of the Broken Windows theory. The theory suggests that small crimes could lead to worse crimes, so minor offenses “that made residents feel unsafe or hinted at acceptance of violence were addressed in order to improve quality of life, strengthen communities, and prevent serious crime,” the outlet reported.

But Baltimore adopted a “zero tolerance” policing policy, which led to unfocused and excessive policing.

A Baltimore Police Department veteran once explained that true Broken Windows policing would involve community and police collaboration.

“You go to a community—before we come in, [we should ask], ‘What are the main things you all can’t stand?’ Everybody playing music at 11:30 at night, kids sitting on the corner, the prostitutes using the little park over there to work their trade. Now, ‘What don’t you care about?’ See the old guys sitting down at the corner playing cards every night? They could stay there all they want. . . . Then the police come in and do what the neighborhood wants. You just don’t go out and lock everybody up,” the officer explained, admitting that instead of adhering to that policy, “we went overboard.”

Because Baltimore misapplied the theory and police instead arrested thousands for minor offenses, the city now thinks policing is a bad thing, instead opting to go too far in the opposite direction. As the City-Journal found, the results have seen higher crime rates.

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