Some Baltimore residents have trouble finding jobs because of arrests for minor charges such as trespassing. The issue has had new attention after Freddie Gray’s death, says the Baltimore Sun. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby contends that Gray, who sustained a fatal spinal injury in police custody, was arrested illegally because officers failed to establish probable cause. Some residents complain that “clearing the corner,” making arrests on minor offenses to disperse people in drug-infested areas or to investigate more serious crimes, is a police strategy that continues to harm residents and has contributed to a distrust of police. Though charges are often dropped by prosecutors, arrests can remain on records for years. That has helped to drive up the number of expungements, as Marylanders try to cleanse records that may be reviewed by potential employers.
Baltimore police counter that they have abandoned the zero-tolerance strategy that led to mass arrests. Statistics bear out that assertion. The number of arrests for minor crimes such as failure to obey, loitering and disorderly conduct has dropped significantly across Baltimore, from 5,401 in 2005 to 2,016 last year. There are also fewer cases in which police make arrests only to see prosecutors release them without charges; there were 10,844 such cases in 2009 and 956 last year. Police are now targeting the “worst of the worst,” said Col. Darryl DeSousa, who until recently headed the patrol division. Minor nuisance offenses are increasingly addressed with citations rather than arrests, he said. African Americans are still being arrested disproportionately for minor crimes, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of city data. Blacks make up 64 percent of the city’s population but accounted for 93 percent of loitering arrests and 84 percent of trespass arrests in 2014.