Police Commissioner Michael Harrison had inconclusive answers on some questions asked at a routine City Council oversight hearing.
Baltimoreans will soon be able to text 911, but it’s not clear when, Harrison told council members yesterday.
As for the effectiveness of the BPD’s surveillance planes, Harrison promised a “midterm” report in a couple weeks.
The so-called “spy planes” have yielded 95 “investigative packets,” but it’s not clear how many of these have resulted in arrests, Harrison said.
As for the data on reported crime, Harrison released BPD numbers that suggest an overall drop in crime between January 1 and August 15 compared to the same period last year:
Homicides were down 3%, shootings down 13%, violent crime down 19%, and robbery down 29% based on preliminary data from the city’s Open Baltimore website.
“I am not celebrating these figures,” Harrison said.
Indeed, the slight reductions come after a series of record-breaking years for crime and violence in Baltimore. The city finished 2019 with 348 homicides, the second deadliest year on record.
No Timetable for Texting 911
The questions came at a virtual hearing yesterday, two months after the Council slashed more than $20 million from the Baltimore Police Department’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget.
Council President Brandon Scott pressed about texting 911, but Harrison declined to provide a timetable.
Police departments across the country, including in Washington, D.C., have made it possible to text 911 in recent years. The feature is intended for victims of domestic assault and other crimes to seek help while the perpetrator is still present.
Texting 911 also allows people who can’t hear or speak to seek emergency help.
In 2018, the state Board of Public Works approved a $2.4 million contract to allow emergency responders across Maryland to receive and respond to 911 texts.