BALTIMORE — Defund to refund: That was the message from community members at a rally outside of the Baltimore City Housing Department.
They’re calling on city leaders to reduce the police budget and use the extra money to invest in communities.
“If we succeeded in reducing crime, we wouldn’t continue to have year over year increases in murder rate. We wouldn't have year over year increases in overdose deaths," said Jessi Ahart who is an organizer with Communities United--the organization that put the rally together.
Ahart added, "the city has what’s called evidence-based funding, I want to know what metrics they’re using to continue to add more money to the police budget and less money to other areas of the budget specifically, housing, harm reduction and schools. Those are the areas that are really hurting our communities."
Last year, city council passed a budget that allocated $555 million to the Baltimore city police department. It was an increase of $28 million from the year before.
And with the proposed budget for this upcoming fiscal year set to be released next month, community members at the rally say the city should do more to build up the people of Baltimore and not the police.
Terrell Askew, who is a member of two organizations called United Workers and Baltimore Renters United, believes one of root causes of crime is poverty.
He said you can't expect police to be the only answer to the crime problem.
“You have to stabilize people first," he said. “You have to think a person, let’s say they are a teenager, 15 [or] 16 , they weren’t born committing crimes. It was all the little things that they did not have access to that impacted them that led to that moment."
Communities United also plans to rally next month in April, which will be on the day the proposed budget is expected to be released.
The Mayor's Office sent us a statement in response to the rally:
“Mayor Brandon M. Scott has been and will continue to make targeted and highly impactful investments into our communities while also making sure that BPD is appropriately funded to fulfill its obligations per the Consent Decree.”