BALTIMORE — "It is bad, and it's extremely disturbing to all of us," said Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison about the violence in the city. "I know it’s disturbing to the people who live and work here in Baltimore, and that is why it’s so important that we treat this in a comprehensive way."
WMAR-2 News reporter Erin MacPherson had a one-on-one interview with Commissioner Harrison about his five-year crime plan that will hopefully be funded by the state.
He hasn't met with Governor Larry Hogan directly yet about the plan but has talked with his office and received positive feedback from local and state lawmakers. If he gets the $14 million, he says the first thing he plans to do is switch BPD's records management system from paper to digital.
"We're more than 20 years behind when it comes to that. That frees up time in a very exponential way from hand writing reports to doing them on computers in cars and in a station," said Commissioner Harrison. He said the digital system will also help with warrants. An officer will be able to send a warrant directly to a judge who can then sign it and send it back electronically.
"That frees up hours upon hours so we can be more visible. We can have a more effective patrol strategy," Harrison said. "There’s a deterrent effect and there’s more of us a around to apprehend people who commit these crimes."
Another way to free up time is moving non-violent crimes online.
"Moving property crimes and nuisance crimes to telephone or web based reporting," said Commissioner Harrison. "The more calls we can move to web-based reporting instead of physical response, the more calls we can eliminate all together because it’s not appropriate for police."
The goal with more time for officers is to have a better engagement with the community.
"We want to move into a proactive way of preventing crime as opposed to always being reactionary responding to it," Commissioner Harrison said.
They've already started one strategy, microzones. Officers walk around high risk areas three times during their shift for 15-20 minutes.
"The faster we can get, the faster we can apprehend people who commit these crimes but also it creates high levels of visibility that are chronically prone to crime," Harrison said.
He said it's too early to tell if it's working but is hoping to have some concrete data soon. Right now, he explained how they're tracking when the officers are doing these foot patrols compared to the crime in the area. The challenge with this is the lack of officers, but 34 new recruits hit the streets on Friday.
"It is a challenge that we have to be smart and resourceful because we’re understaffed in a number of areas and we’re working on it," Commissioner Harrison said.
He also stressed the importance of connecting with the community and gaining the communities trust.