Baltimore homicides are down 30 percent in the first three months of 2008 compared with the same period last year and shootings declined 31 percent, says the Baltimore Sun. Last year began as the most violent in more than a decade, but the first quarter of 2008 was Baltimore’s least deadly since 1985. Officials caution that it’s too early to extrapolate much, but they say the trends are encouraging and point to a host of factors that they believe have made a difference. “It really has a lot to do with the strategy that we put in place, where the focus is very targeted on the violent offenders,” said Mayor Sheila Dixon. In neighborhoods, many say they don’t believe anything has changed or that they figure it won’t keep up.
Police and prosecutors are working together to identify possible violent offenders – such as probationers or registered gun offenders – and attempt to arrest them for whatever they can. Even small offenses, such as a violation of open container laws, can lead to a probation violation. Prosecutors, police, and the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice are updating one another on individual cases. “We have a strategy, and everybody is on the same page as to what that strategy is,” said Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy. “That strategy is to prioritize the arrests, the prosecution and the conviction of violent and repeat offenders.” City leaders praised the Police Department’s 200-member Violent Crime Impact Division, which has been responsible for coordinating the effort and focusing more attention on gun crimes.