In the midst of a rise in murders unlike anything the city has witnessed in more than four decades, the Baltimore Police Department and federal law enforcement agencies announced the creation of a new task force to help quell the violence Monday afternoon.
Starting immediately, two special agents each from the FBI; Drug Enforcement Agency; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Secret Service will begin working alongside detectives from the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit.
The goal of the new “B-FED” partnership is simple, city police say: accelerate the rate of homicide closures, improve the current 36 percent homicide clearance rate, and remove violent individuals from the streets.
To date, 191 people have been killed in Baltimore this year, including more than 40 people in both May and July. The 116 people killed in May, June, and July—a surge that began in the weeks after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died from injuries while in police custody—mark the highest three-month total since 1970, according to reporting by the Baltimore Sun. In 1970, however, the city also had nearly 300,000 more residents.
Baltimore is not the only U.S. city seeing an increase in homicides, and acting city police commissioner Kevin Davis noted he’d spent the morning and afternoon at a one-day summit in Washington, D.C. to address the recent nationwide spike in homicides. St. Louis, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Chicago are among the cities facing significant increases in the number of murders this year.
At Monday’s press conference at police headquarters announcing the new task force, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was joined by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. John Sarbanes, City state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby, and Davis, along members of the City Council and several federal law enforcement officials.
“We all know the level of violence in our city over the past months is unacceptable,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I’ve seen the resolve in our communities [to do better].” She said that the new task force will increase the resources, collaboration, and partnerships city police have at all levels. “This is the next step.”
Mikulski said the federal agents bring “knowledge and know-how,” in forensics and weapons, for example, that can assist in solving local cases. Baltimore Police Department officials also said the federal agencies can identify creative approaches in building cases against targeted individuals.
Cummings, in somber tones, said it has been painful “to see so many young lives snuffed out” and called upon community members to work with police in bringing violent individuals to justice. “If you stand back and don’t do anything, all you do is allow a murderer to do it again.”
Davis, who took over the leadership of the city police department on an interim basis after former police commissioner Anthony Batts was fired last month, said the task force will remain in place for 60 days, at which time its status will be evaluated.
Specifically, the federal-city partnership will go after “highly motivated repeat violent offenders,” said Davis. “We know who they are.”