Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Arrests Vs. Murders

Caveat Emptor
Greetings.  For some of you, this is your first time stopping here after you found me from my Buzzfeed article.  Recently, my posts have been more police-centric, but this blog was a journal or outlet for me for many yeats and so if you spend time going back in time here, it could get pretty random, so be warned.  I had to decide whether or not to start a whole other blog, just on law enforcement stuff, and in the end decided that this blog really is who I am for better or worse as 
I've travelled through my life, and this focus on policing is simply the next chapter for it.  So I just wanted to set that out up front for any new people.

So Baltimore has had a terrible May. They are currently at 35 homicides for the month and it's not yet over.  They currently stand at 108 homicides for the year, while Philadelphia at more than double the population (1.5 million to 600K) stands at 88.  And these are just the murders.  Shootings are up 78%, and that's people shot.  Not people just shooting.  Those numbers are anyone's guess.  At the same time as this terrible spike in violence, the news has trumpeted stats saying that arrests are way down.  Some 45% over last year, our friends across the pond are saying.  Some are saying that the police are simply letting these murders happen as some sort of retribution for the indictment of the 6 officers for Freddie Grey's murder.

Now, let me say up front, that I've never worked or lived in Charm City.  I do very much enjoy their food and their people, but I am no expert on Baltimore.  But I do know that we're talking about apples and oranges in many ways.

Let's take the murders and the shootings.  Again, I am no police mastermind, but the shocking amount of violence in a concentrated area (Western District) would lead me to believe that a lot of this is retributional.  That is to say that people didn't just decide to embark on their shooting career in May.  They are trading bodies for bodies.  If this hunch is right, then these are incredibly hard murders and shootings to solve.  As evidenced by the fact that after the initial ones, people turned to guns to solve them and not to the police.  This is nothing new.  There is of course a huge "stop snitching" culture.  I've had crime scenes where the victim could tell me exactly where the guy was who shot him down to the foot, but couldn't tell me anything about their height, weight or clothing. This is how it goes.  The cops know this.

This is not to excuse it.  Yesterday in Baltimore, a 9-year old boy was shot.  These are people being killed with familes and mothers and sisters and kids, regardless of whether they're in the game or not. It's inexcusable and must be stopped, but it's hard when you don't have witnesses.  It doesn't mean you don't try, but its hard.  There is a tremendous impact to the psyche of this community.

As for the arrests, I would wager to say that this represents proactive arrests.  These aren't the arrests for people calling about getting hit by someone and pointing out the suspect, or people stealing from stores and being caught on video camera.  These are the arrests that come from cops seeing guys pissing on the street, drinking in public, gambling, or looking suspicious and then later finding drugs or guns on them.  Bear in mind, that last category fit Freddie Grey to a T, except he was only carrying a knife of questionable legality, depending on who you're listening to on Twitter.

These are the arrests that people hate.  Eric Garner, arrested for selling loose cigarettes.  Michael Brown, stopped for walking on the street.  However this kind of policing can also be good policing.  Brian Moore, the NYPD officer who was killed weeks ago, saw a guy with something in his waistband.  When he asked the guy about it, man turned and shot him in the head, a wound he later died from.  It was a good stop.  And clearly it was for cause.  But they're not all going to turn up guns, which is where it gets grey again.

There is not a true connection between the drop in arrests and the rise in shootings.  For that, you would have to know what arrests were not being made this year.  You also have to ask a community weary of police helicopters and aggressive tactics how they can earn that trust again. So when someone gets stopped wearing a trenchcoat in summer and gets patted down, they understand it isn't heavy handed tactics, but officers looking to literally stop the bleeding.  

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