Disturbed by a recent spate of violence, the Baltimore Police announced a community walk in the neighborhood where a 5-year-old girl was shot Monday night.
The girl was injured but is expected to survive. She is the half-sister of Taylor Haynes, the 7 year old who was shot while sitting in the backseat of a car in Edmondson Village in July. Haynes died of her injures two weeks later. Police eventually made an arrest in that case after months of pleading with the community for more information about potential suspects.
During Tuesday's press conference, Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle spoke of the frequency with which some residents have become revictimized, or who have experienced both sides of the city's violent streets, going from victims to perpetrators or perpetrators to victims. Tuggle said so far this year, seven people who had previously been shot ultimately became homicide victims in another instance, and 97 people who have been shot in one incident became shooting victims again later.
"There is a very serious situation with respect to the level of violence we're seeing in the city of Baltimore," Tuggle said. "We continue to see today's victims often times become tomorrow's perpetrator or vice versa, where we see the trigger puller of today become tomorrow's victim.
"...That's really, really said victimology," Tuggle said. "At the end of the day, we've got to do more, not just as a police department, but we have to do more as a community. We've become so desensitized to the level of violence in the city that it's become unacceptable."
Tuggle said five days a week, police officials meet with a team of "mission focused" city partners, including representatives from city hall and city agencies, community residents, clergy, and other stakeholders. The department also runs a violence reduction initiative, holding walks and creating a presence in communities, said Lt. Col. Sheree Briscoe.
As an "amplified version" of that initiative, the department is holding a walk in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where the 5 year old was shot, Briscoe said.
"Tonight we're going to focus our efforts as a community," Briscoe said. "We will drop down at McKean [Avenue] and Mosher [Street] tonight at 5:30 p.m. along with our city partner, our grass roots organization, our clergy, and our residents.
"It's not just a show of solidarity in response to this incident," Briscoe said. 'It's also our show for community engagement; how we have to naturally weave ourselves together to fight the battle of crime and to address the health and welfare of our communities."
That community engagement was further stressed by Tuggle, in both curbing overall violence and finding those responsible for another shooting of a young child in the city. Police believe the 5-year-old girl was shot inadvertently during a shootout in the area between what is thought to be at least one shooter in a car and at least another on foot. Police currently have no leads and are asking for the community to come forward with any information that could lead to an arrest.
"I think that's a real tragedy, but it's more emblematic with the issues with respect to some of our communities in terms of the level of violence," Tuggle said. "At the end of the day, when people pull guns with reckless abandon to harm other people, and they don't care who gets hurt, that's an issue. ... It really shows there are some individuals that just don't care who they hurt, and they have to be removed from the streets."
Tuggle said the community needs to become a "force multiplier" for the police, extending the department's efforts to curb violence and hold perpetrators accountable. Tuggle asked anyone with information about this most recent shooting to contact the Citywide Shooting Unit at 410-396-2221, use the text tipline at 443-908-4824, or call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.
Beyond providing information and increasing grassroots engagement, a mindset shift needs to occur in the city, where people move don't use weaponry to settle disputes, quickly magnifying a cycle of violence.
"We need to get people away from thinking about guns as a first resort to anger," Tuggle said. "We also need to again enlist the community to be actively engaged, hence the walk tonight. We're taking a number of organizations with us to again look at grassroots efforts to address the level of violence we're seeing."