Following the deadliest year in Baltimore’s history, and a weekend where there were five homicides, Baltimore police and city officials are trying a new approach to combating crime,
City leaders announced Monday a new collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore Police Department where researchers will use data to evaluate and develop new ways of policing that facilitates large reductions in violent crime.
Together they’ve identified six initial projects they’ll focus on addressing. “How do we deter illegal gun possession? How can we strengthen community relations through well-trained foot officers? How can we best coordinate the district commanders of BPD?,” said Johns Hopkins University president Ronald Daniels.
Researchers will also assess the effectiveness of programs implemented last year, including the B-Fed Homicide Reduction Task Force and “War Room.” In addition, they’ll look at improving rewards for crime tips, and enhancing recruitment efforts.
“We are going to have to come up with some of those solutions ourselves, applying the best available data, applying what the police officers know from their front-line experiences, and I think that will enable to us to continue to get better as how we police so we have both less violence and better relationships with the community” said Daniel Webster, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and one of the two lead researchers on the project. Professor Sheldon Greenberg of the Johns Hopkins School of Education will also direct the project.
The goal of the project is to put knowledge into action by uncovering trends hidden behind the numbers.
“I'm looking for an ‘Aha’ moment, and I think research provides data that gives someone like myself an opportunity to look at it and say, ‘I can't believe we never thought of it that way. I can't believe we never looked at it from that perspective, I can't believe this information has been right here in front of me for all these years and I've unconsciously chosen to ignore it because of this law enforcement culture that I've been in my whole adult life,” said Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
Initially, researchers will evaluate programs already in place, but they also envision being able to innovate new policing programs over time.
“We could be the who's who of innovative police departments within a year's time if we can develop some strategies that no one is doing,” said Commissioner Davis.
Researchers were designated office space near the Commissioner’s desk. According to Webster, the two teams plan to meet on a bi-weekly basis.