Three years ago, the Baltimore Police Department’s Marine Unit was viewed as an indispensable crime-fighting tool, reports the city’s Sun. The city had spent $143,000 on a state-of-the-art 27-foot SeaArk craft packed with the latest radar, sonar and satellite navigation, and had enough federal homeland security money to buy two more. “You are always concerned that there is a possibility that Sept. 11 can happen again, right here with us,” Sgt. Ed Coleman explained back then.
What had appeared necessary for the security of the nation and the citizens of Baltimore is suddenly not so necessary anymore. Money isn’t flowing as it was then; in fact, city police are cutting back while dealing with nearly a murder-a-day crime pace that started at the beginning of November and threatens to overshadow gains made earlier this year in reducing the number of killings. The city’s five police boats are still docked between Fells Point and Canton, but the 14 officers assigned there have dwindled to a single sergeant, who can go out if required. It’s nearly winter, crime is surging, the budget is tight and the police commissioner has redeployed the marine officers to different jobs, at least until the ice thaws and people go sailing again.