Analysis: Police Themselves Are To Blame For Spike in Baltimore Crime

Photo Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
Photo Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

This weekend, the Baltimore Sun and New York Times both had articles on the spike in violence in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the civil unrest, and eventually the arrest and indictment of six police officers.

The culprit is clear: both articles cited the fact that, as the crime rate surged, the number of people arrested declined.

The Baltimore Sun on Sunday reported, “Baltimore police arrested fewer people in May than in any month for at least three years, despite a surge in homicides and shootings across the city — triggering safety concerns among residents.

“Several neighborhoods saw declines of more than 90 percent from April to May, while arrests in the West Baltimore area where Freddie Gray was arrested dropped by more than half during the same period, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of police data. Citywide, arrests declined 43 percent from April to May,” the paper wrote.

The Baltimore paper reports that the dramatic decline, which has been citywide, “has sparked a debate about police pulling back on enforcement efforts,” and came following the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent prosecution of six officers.

According to city leaders and police union officials, “Officers have been hesitant to make arrests since the rioting that followed Gray’s funeral, union and police department officials have said. Officers also have been surrounded by camera-wielding residents recording their every move, according to the police commissioner. And since Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed the criminal charges in Gray’s death, many officers are afraid that they risk being charged with crimes for trying to do their jobs, union leaders say.”

However, many are not convinced that the police are actually genuinely fearful, but rather they are angry.

Homicides and shootings have spiked. There were 42 in Baltimore in May, the largest amount in a single month since 1990. There have been 237 shootings this year, an 84 percent jump over last year at this time.

At the same time, “arrests have plummeted in neighborhoods across the city.” The paper reports, “Some of the starkest declines took place in southwest neighborhoods: Only one arrest each was made in May in the Franklin Square and Mill Hill communities, a 95 percent decline over April arrests.”

Many have jumped on the notion of a “Ferguson Effect” – depicting that the protests themselves have created a crime wave. Analysis of St. Louis crime data, that the Vanguard reported on Tuesday, suggests that crime rates in St. Louis rose long before Ferguson occurred.

However, something else is happening in Baltimore and elsewhere.

As the New York Times reported this weekend, “Around the nation, communities and police departments are struggling to adapt to an era of heightened scrutiny, when every stop can be recorded on a cellphone.”

But, “residents, clergy members and neighborhood leaders say the past six weeks have made another reality clear: that as much as some officers regularly humiliated and infuriated many who live here, angering gang members and solid citizens alike, the solution has to be better policing, not a diminished police presence.”

The Times writes, “At the time of her announcement, Ms. Mosby’s charges were seen as calming the city. But they enraged the police rank and file, who pulled back. The number of arrests plunged, and the murder rate doubled in a month. The reduced police presence gave criminals space to operate, according to community leaders and some law enforcement officials.”

The Times continues, “The soaring violence has made Baltimore a battleground for political arguments about whether a backlash against police tactics has led to more killings in big cities like New York, St. Louis and Chicago, and whether “de-policing,” as academics call it, can cause crime to rise.”

However, the Times argues, “Still, the speed and severity of the police pullback here appear unlike anything that has happened in other major cities. And rather than a clear test case, Baltimore is a reminder of how complicated policing issues are and how hard it can be to draw solid conclusions from a month or two of crime and police response.”

The Baltimore paper notes that, over the last two years, “arrests have been in a gradual decline across Baltimore, The Sun’s analysis shows. In 2013, there were 3,522 arrests per month, and in 2014, 3,302 arrests per month. From January to April this year — even before the big drop in May — there were 2,641 arrests per month.”

Some say “that trend could have a silver lining.” Residents complain that they have “lost all respect for the police” because of harassment. They argue, “If police want respect from the community, they need to first respect residents.” Others argue, “Fewer overall arrests could also mean fewer bad arrests, and fewer young black men getting a criminal record.”

Across the country complaints about policies like “stop and frisk” and variants of the “Broken Window” policing have produced animosity in the communities where the police are needed the most to fight crime.

There are complaints that the war on drugs has produced a new underclass of largely black males that are trapped in the cycle of crime and poverty, and post-sentencing provisions keep them there.

There are complaints about excessive force disproportionately directed toward young men of color.

At the same time, there is evidence that the crime wave, at least in Baltimore, is due to police – angry, perhaps with hurt feelings – refusing to do their job.

As the Sacramento Bee put it in early May, the “police need to get tough enough for transparency.” That is really what this all about – all or nothing solutions are not going to work. While there are questions about how the police should go about their business, there are few people that question that we need police to go about their business in a thorough, thoughtful and professional manner.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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30 thoughts on “Analysis: Police Themselves Are To Blame For Spike in Baltimore Crime”

  1. zaqzaq


    It would be nice if you explained the impact that Mosby’s decision to charge the two arresting officers with a crime because she alleges they were wrong when they detained, searched and arrested Grey.  There are three impacts that this decision has on policing in Baltimore.

    1.  It is not uncommon for officers to be wrong when they make an arrest.  They do not always understand or interpret a law correctly.  The legal option is to contest it in court and if it is egregious to file a civil lawsuit against the officer and department.  Mosby has upped the ante by telling police officers that if you are wrong when you detain or arrest I will charge you with a crime.  This blunts any initiative that officers have to aggressively police neighborhoods.  Now when they observe activity that would normally have resulted in a detention and possibly an arrest the decide it is not worth the risk to engage resulting in fewer arrests.  It is further a problem because the Baltimore Police Department homicide task force that investigated the Grey case concluded that the knife in question was illegal under a city code section.  This creates the issue of the department making one analysis on a law and the DA saying they are wrong.  Can the officers trust their department to give them the correct information and training?  Why take the chance?

    2.  Officers are concerned that they will be charged with a crime if the are the backup who arrives on scene after an illegal arrest and do their job by assisting in any further investigation or detention of the person arrested.   This creates a peer pressure on fellow officers to only make an arrest if it there is no risk of being accused of making an illegal arrest or detention.

    3.  The Baltimore Sun has reported that now when the police respond to a call for service they are surrounded by large number of camera toting citizens that require crowd control.  It not take more officers to respond to a call for service resulting in inefficient policing and fewer arrests.

    What is really a problem on top of the above is that Mosby asked/directed the police to address an open air drug market at the location where Grey was initially contacted by police due to constituent complaints.  This led to an email from a police captain to Lt Rice and others to aggressively address the issue to include weekly tracking “measurables” which is translated as the number of arrests.  It supports the claim that the location was a high crime area which supports the legality of the initial detention because Grey fled from the officers.  All it takes for a detention is unprovoked flight in a high crime area.  Either Mosby is ignoring this Supreme Court decision or she does not understand it as an inexperienced prosecutor.


    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I’m not sure I agree with that. There is an element missing here from your analysis and that is that the person died and died at the very least due to negligence by the police. The more appropriate way to handle this would be for all sides to sit down and clarify the situation. The police not doing their job at all (or mostly) is not a responsible response to their perhaps legitimate concerns and therefore I have to question their judgment at this point.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I’m sorry, David, but you paint a completely one-sided picture.

        Do you ever wonder why Progressive policies have failed so completely after 7 decades?

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          The polices that destroyed the inner city, that destroyed the black family, the educational system, etc.

          Yes, the “broken windows” policing policies which I believe started in New York with Mayor Rudy and his Chief of Police, partly funded by Bill Clinton, helped to cut violent crime in half.

        2. Davis Progressive

          broken windows goes originated with james q. wilson, noted conservative scholar.  giuliani (a republican) and william bratton helped to implement it.  definitely not a progressive policy.

        3. Davis Progressive

          “The polices that destroyed the inner city, that destroyed the black family, the educational system, etc.”

          you mean like mass incarceration?

        4. TrueBlueDevil

          DP, what comes first, truancy, or the big house?

          Why do some of these inner city communities have truancy rates that push 50%, like Baltimore?

          Liberal policies have destroyed the traditional black family, yet like the old rock song you simply ask for “more, more, more”.


      2. zaqzaq


        An officer makes a detention and arrest followed by turning over custody of that suspect to another officer for transport to the police station.  The DA later determines that the arrest is not supported by the law or evidence or both and declines to charge the suspect.  If the suspect is healthy and released afterwards and nothing happens to the arresting officer.  In an alternate scenario the officer who transports the suspect the to the police station does something illegal that lead so the death of the suspect.  Now the DA charges the arresting officer with crimes relating to the illegal arrest.  Are you taking the position that this decision by the DA is appropriate?  That the key factor in determining whether or not to charge the officer with crimes relating to the arrest is what another officer does to the suspect during transport that the original officer has not control over?  I do not follow your logic.  In Baltimore the two arresting officers were not charged with Grey’s death.  The other four were.

        Please not that in my scenario the detention and arrest are not supported by the facts and thus illegal.  I do not believe that to be the case in Baltimore based on a supreme court decision and the fact that the Baltimore police determined that the knife was illegal.  But close calls like this where the officers are charged with crimes clearly have a negative impact on the community when the officers become much more cautious in contacts, detentions and arrests.

        DP wants them fired for not doing their jobs.  Based on the DA’s new charging policy they may very well be doing their jobs within the new guidelines her charging policy has created.  Her poor decision has led to this crime wave.  She cannot repair it other than dismissing the charges against these two officers and admitting that she was wrong.  Then she will have to work to rebuild the trust with law enforcement which I do not think she can do.  Right now cop and DAs are not working as a team in Baltimore and the citizens are suffering.

        The two of you are out of touch with the situation on the ground in Baltimore.


        1. David Greenwald Post author

          In your scenario about the illegal arrest – it really depends on the circumstances. In my experience, usually the issue of an illegal arrest is going to come to light during a prosecution where the defense attempts to suppress evidence or get the charges thrown out. Under those circumstances, you’re going to see the DA arrest officers. However, in a case where the DA is investigating because of a death in custody, it may occur. Generally speaking, it comes down to whether or not there is good faith on the officer’s part in making the arrest as to what the consequences should be. Ultimately, the DA through the grand jury process did not prosecute the illegal arrest, so it may be a moot point.

          I think the police response to this situation – a situation they are largely responsible for creating both in the instant case and the history of the department – suggests that change in the department is needed.

        2. zaqzaq


          You are wrong.  The DA did prosecute the alleged illegal arrest through the charge of misconduct in office illegal arrest instead of the false imprisonment.  There are now two misconduct in office charges.  If the assault charge is from the original arrest related to the conduct involved in the initial detention and handcuffing of Grey that would further support my point.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I have not seen anywhere that links the misconduct in office charge directly to the false imprisonment. In fact, misconduct in office was in the original charges. So certainly your claim that they were prosecuted “through the charge of misconduct in office illegal arrest instead of the false imprisonment” is in question.

            If you have a link please provide it.

        3. zaqzaq


          All you have to do is watch Mosby’s press conference where she reads the charges in the indictment (see links to USA Today and the NY Times) below.  Your opinion pieces on this issue have been flawed as you did not understand that two of the charges for officers Nero and Miller derive from the detention and arrest.  Those charges are the assault and the misconduct in office illegal arrest.  That charging decision has resulted in less aggressive policing by the cops.  Why take a chance initiating a contact when the cops suspect a crime is being committed because if you are wrong y0u get arrested.  It is safer for the police to let the bad guys go.  If that bad guy goes on to kill someone then to bad, so sad.  The bad guys now know this and are operating with impunity.

          I eagerly await your apology for being so wrong on the issue of the charges from the arrest and your resulting analysis.  You claimed that my “claim that they were prosecuted “through the charge of misconduct in office illegal arrest instead of the false imprisonment” is in question.”  I am not sure where you went for your information.  Hopefully you can concede that my information is accurate and no longer in question.  Thanks.

          1. Don Shor

            [moderator] Just so you know, posts that contain links go automatically into the moderation queue for approval and may take some time to appear as they wait for one of us to see them.

  2. Davis Progressive

    this is a police generated crisis.  are residents really unreasonable having concerns about police tactics?  people getting killed by police officers?  sometimes carelessly at best in the case of freddie gray?  do citizens who are innocent of crimes want to get stopped on the streets?  i sure don’t want to.  is it unreasonable to call for cameras?  can these protests be heard without police stopping to do their jobs?

    i really believe that the officers in baltimore who are refusing to work should be fired and replaced.  that will stop this nonsense really quickly.

    1. zaqzaq


      This is a politician generated crisis.  Both the charging decision concerning the arresting officers and the way the police were made to sit back and take it during the riots while businesses burned resulting in over 100 officers being injured led to the crisis.  Law enforcement cannot solve the underlying social problems created by the politicians in Baltimore.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        I don’t agree that this is a politician generated crisis. I do agree that law enforcement can’t solve the social problems, but they can stop being part of the problem.

  3. Frankly

    Cops enforce the law and they are criticized by the community they are trying to keep safe and liberals for being too heavy-handed.

    Cops back down from heavy-handedness and are criticized by the community and liberals for causing more crime.

    And this is exactly why we all need to stop listening to the crime-ridden community and liberals on this topic.  They are alike in that they have both lost their ability to think rationally on this subject.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think where people believe that cops are being too heavy handed is when they cross the line between enforcement and harassment of citizens who may or may not be lawbreakers.  there is a line.  when you stop people on the street through stop and frisk, people start getting angry.  when you use excessive force people are going to question it.  when you start killing citizens, people are going to riot.  i think you can enforce the law without crossing that line.  apparently you don’t.  it scares me that you come from a law enforcement family and that’s their mentality.

      1. Davis Progressive

        this isn’t just a liberal issue.  google cato institute and baltimore police and you can see what the leading libertarian think tank has to say.

      2. TrueBlueDevil

        It befuddles me when educated progressives make criminal Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin their choir boys.

        Fact is, police aren’t using “stop and frisk” on the mother or grandmother going to, or returning from work or the grocery store. Police aren’t stopping and frisking the Guatemalan house painter.

        Maybe someday David will write an article on the failed social and economic policies in Baltimore, a city run by Democrats for 7 decades? The power brokers 5, 6, or 7 years ago were probably Irish, Polish, Italian … and today many are African American, but the same failed policies are being used.

        1. Davis Progressive

          first of all, i would say that the case is far strong for eric garner, walter scott and freddie gray.  and certainly tamir rice, so if you want to discount michael brown (not sure why martin is part of this conversation), that’s fine.

          as i’ve explained to you before however, despite your claims to the contrary, michael brown was unarmed when he was shot, he was also 150 feet at least from the officer’s car, the need to shoot him at that point makes little sense.  he could have waited, called for back up, arrested him at his home without incident.  and that’s the problem right there – a needless young life was lost.

          “Fact is, police aren’t using “stop and frisk” on the mother or grandmother going to, or returning from work or the grocery store.”

          actually they are and that’s part of the problem.  police are using poor discretion as to who to approach.  they end up approaching eli davis, a 60-something year old man mowing his law when a resident mistakes a black sales person for a burglar.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          I find it telling that you continue to defend a felony criminal like Michael Brown who we have on tape committing assault and battery against a shopkeeper.

          This same criminal committed attempted murder – with the police officer’s own gun – and at 300 pounds was charging him once again. High on drugs. I find it interesting that you leave all of these details out.

        3. Davis Progressive

          darn phone.  i meant to say, “i’m not defending michael brown” – he could have acted completely in the wrong and the officer’s action would have been improper.  the place of the question was the actual shooting when brown was a 150 feet away from the officer’s car, not armed, and wilson had other options than to fire on him.

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      Agreed. This is the Eric Holder Effect leads to the Ferguson Effect, as we’ve seen in Seattle, New York, and elsewhere.

      The DOJ and Eric Holder have been harassing and filing consent decrees based upon, from my limited reading, liberal social theories on police tactics. Lawsuits are threatened.

      For several years here we have been told by numerous Vanguard posters that the “stop and frisk” / “broken windows” policing was ineffective, racist, and that the huge reduction in crime achieved the past few decades was for various other reasons. So due to the Eric Holder Effect, the police reduce or end their stop and frisk, and guess what, crime goes up!

      David leaves out that police are swarmed by citizens in Baltimore, preventing them from doing their job.

      David leaves out that citizens now allegedly walk down the middle of the street smoking dope, drinking alcohol, sometimes with visible weapons.

      The Vanguard also leaves out that reports state that a massive quantity of drugs were stolen during the Baltimore riots, and those drugs are now being sold / used in these same neighborhoods.

      David also ignores that officers have been assassinated in several American cities in what appears to be a huge spike. The police have been targeted, and the brass hasn’t supported them.

      The fact is that these “various” other facts that progressives claim reduced crime, still exist. So why then, the record bloodshed?


  4. tribeUSA

    I find it amazing that the relentless media, politico, and activist attack on the police continues; with blantantly biased and warped one-sided arguments to blame and even vilify the police. Its the cry-wolf syndrome, where the case for some police reform or changes in policy start to lose credibility with the public when there is such rhetoric–I am one who endorses that some attention should be given to the issue of excessive use of force by police, but see no need to relentlessly vilify the police in order to accomplish this goal. Some good counterpoints and reality-checks above TPD.

  5. David Greenwald Post author


    I wrote: “I have not seen anywhere that links the misconduct in office charge directly to the false imprisonment. In fact, misconduct in office was in the original charges. So certainly your claim that they were prosecuted “through the charge of misconduct in office illegal arrest instead of the false imprisonment” is in question.”

    I watched the press conference and I see you point: she indicated that the misconduct in office was based both on the failure to insure the safety of the person in custody and an illegal arrest.  So you are correct on that point.

    I doesn’t change my base opinion here – even if you believe that she is wrong to prosecute the officers for making an illegal arrest especially in a gray area of the law – and I probably agree with you here at this point based on what we know – I don’t believe that is justification for the police to fail to do their jobs, so it does not change my underlying commentary.

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