Baltimore has about 2,600 known gang members and 170 criminal street gangs, according to a new report from the Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.Is this supposed to be surprising? The report states some very obvious things, such as:
“The same areas that have clusters of gang members are the same areas that have clusters of shootings and homicides,” said James Green, the Baltimore Police Department’s director of special projects.Now that is good police work. This is on par with findings earlier this year that assert without a shadow of a doubt that areas which have clusters of traffic (often known as "steets" or "roads" to the layman) are the same areas where police have been seeing clusters of automobile accidents, speeding citations, and drunk driving arrests.
The solutions the report proposes are also not surprising.
To combat the problem, the plan calls for increased opportunities and social interventions for youth; increased penalties for gang members who possess and use firearms; standardized reporting of gang members across area police and sheriff departments; better relations between the police and the community; and improved re-entry services for incarcerated people, among other initiatives.
Arianne Spaccarelli, a member of the plan’s steering committee and a policy analyst for the Baltimore City Health Department, said officials are going to be stressing “disciplinarian life skills” to potential gang members.
That sounds good if you assume that these gangs have nothing to do with the illegal drug trade, which is, in my humble opinion, an insane assumption. However, that is the exact assumption the report appears to make.
The only person who seems to take issue with the report is clerk of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, Frank Conaway.
“I don’t know if it’s as serious as they say it is,” said Frank Conaway, clerk of the Baltimore City Circuit Court. “I’m out on the streets all the time, morning to night, and I just don’t see it.”Thats not the problem though Frank. The problem is that this report on its own is meaningless because it doesn't address the root of gang activity and violence in the city, the illegal drug trade and the cycle of urban poverty that makes the drug trade so alluring to the forgotten youth of Baltimore.
Conaway said he also took issue with the report’s findings that 94.2 percent of known gang members are black.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” he said. “There are no other gangs in the city other than African-Americans? How do you really know who’s a member in a gang, anyway? Who’s going to get arrested and say, ‘Well, I belong to a gang?’ ”
So they can start as many programs as they like to teach gang members "social skills" (whatever that is supposed to mean) and they won't make a lick of difference. Dramatic changes will come when the city of Baltimore is willing to find creative solutions to policing the illegal drug trade and is willing to invest real dollars and time into ending the cycle of urban poverty here.
For a look at one idea aimed at ending that cycle, check this out.