Solutions To “The Tragedy Of Baltimore’s Violence Problem”


Editor’s Note:

Solutions To “The Tragedy Of Baltimore’s Violence Problem”. This article supports the nationally syndicated Armstrong Williams television show (I’ve been a guest many times) regarding crime in Baltimore City. I was asked to provide an overview of probable issues and questions. My title, “The Tragedy Of Baltimore’s Violence Problem,” comes from a New York Times article.

What’s offered below applies to any city experiencing extreme violence regardless of demographics. There are principles within criminology and the justice system that are basic to understanding any city’s crime problems. Examples from Baltimore are used but similar to conditions in many cities struggling with crime.

Finally, what happened recently in Memphis with the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five city police officers is disgusting and heartbreaking. There are no disputes from the law enforcement community that what the officers did was criminal. To my knowledge, the five African American officers with an African American chief of police in a city with a majority of black police officers (58 percent) used all recommended de-escalation policies. Is there an issue with the quality of police officers?

Because Memphis lost hundreds of police officers, they relaxed hiring standards. “They’re desperate. They want police officers,” Alcazar said. “They’re going through it, they check off some boxes, saying, ‘Ok, they’re good enough, get them on.”

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have lost tens of thousands of cops. Media articles about a lack of a police presence, including Baltimore, are daily occurrences. A dramatic loss of police officers applies to Memphis and many other cities. The quality of police officers may (and probably does) count more than policies or the demographics of the force. For data on the use of force, see “Why Do We Mistrust American Opinions Of Law Enforcement?”

Baltimore state’s attorney Mosby makes $248k a year, judge says taxpayers must pay for her expert witnesses in criminal case


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of directing award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Former police officer. Aspiring drummer.

Author of ”Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.

New York Times

“On the left, in contrast, Baltimore’s recent woes have been largely overlooked, partly because they present a challenge to those who start from the assumption that policing is inherently suspect. The national progressive story of Baltimore during this era of criminal-justice reform has been the story of the police excesses that led to Gray’s death and the uprising, not the surge of violence that has overtaken the city ever since. As a result, Baltimore has been left mostly on its own to contend with what has been happening, which has amounted to nothing less than a failure of order and governance the likes of which few American cities have seen in years,” New York Times.


I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Baltimore. It was clean with good schools and relatively low crime. As a child, I was able to travel miles through adjacent neighborhoods on my bike without incident.  Beginning at age nine, I hopped on a streetcar on my own to visit my meat cutter father at Baltimore’s famous Lexington Market, a trip of ten miles. Fear of crime was minimal.

It all ended when a next-door neighbor screamed for help while being robbed. My father ran to his assistance and had a gun pointed at his head. He stood on our front porch roof and pointed out the assailants as police arrived.

Within a month, he told us that we were moving to a rural area of Baltimore County.

After a progression from being a cop to going to college to being the senior specialist for crime prevention for the US Department of Justice’s National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and then becoming the director of informational services for the National Crime Prevention Council, I became the director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety for fourteen years and was inserted into the crime discussion in Baltimore hundreds of times.

Crime And Cops

With a population of around 600,000, Baltimore ranked second in the country for homicide per capita in 2021. The murder rate in Baltimore is 58.27 per 100,000.

Baltimore Police officials tell FOX45 News the department is currently down 455 sworn officers. In 2022, the department hired 103 new officers, however, 277 sworn officers left the department. Baltimore residents are complaining of a lack of a police presence. I’m told that hundreds of additional cops are contemplating leaving over a lack of support from residents and officials.

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It takes a certain amount of audacity to make observations and suggestions about urban crime and violence. Criminologists will correctly tell you that there is no consensus as to urban crime, why it increases, and what we can do. There is little from the researchers at the US Department of Justice as to a specific game plan. What I suggest will create strong agreements and criticism. Regardless, there needs to be a strategy and a list of considerations. There needs to be a starting point that the US Department of Justice is unwilling to provide.

What Will Be Said During The Show

Armstrong Williams courageously takes on tough topics like crime and is willing to bring multiple sides to the table. But after 35 years of talking to the local, state, national, and international media while being the principal spokesperson for federal and state criminal justice agencies, I believe I can suggest with clarity what will be emphasized by varied panelists and commentators.

Progressive Pundits And Commentators Will Say That Baltimore:

Must address its social problems and income inequities through good schools, meaningful jobs, drug treatment, and social services.

Should embrace common sense gun control.

Must emphasize moderation as to the justice system. The city cannot arrest itself out of its crime problems. Incarceration simply exasperates social inequity.

Needs prosecutors more in line with alternatives than harsh prosecutions and incarceration.

Must back off of “failed” aggressive crime policies. Arrests and enforcement fall on mostly low-income people further punishing the powerless.

Needs to make its police officers community-oriented protectors rather than warriors.

Must make its police department responsible for improving police-community relations and lowering crime

Should use former offenders as violence interrupters as a primary focus of crime control.

The Result Of These Policies?

The result of these strategies has left the city I love as being world-renowned for violence and dysfunction. I watched a BBC television program where an actor was complaining about UK crime. Another stated with vigor, “Well, at least we’re not Baltimore.” Residents claim to live in war zones. Businesses and jobs are fleeing. School scores are abysmal. Poverty is climbing. People are leaving. Children are traumatized.

Yet well-funded and numerous progressive groups will insist that the way out remains economic and social development and social workers or former offenders acting as violence interrupters and cops who are protectors rather than warriors.

From a data-driven, methodologically sound, replicated (multiple research projects leading to a conclusion) point of view, there’s little evidence offered by the US Department of Justice or any well-known independent research organization confirming any of the progressive policies above as being effective. National advocacy groups will tell you otherwise.

It would take an exhaustive series of articles explaining the available data. Most of it is on my website at Crime In America.Net.

Zoo York City: Video shows police struggling to arrest man as onlookers laugh

But the bottom line is that endless “experts,” as documented by The New York Times, illustrated the progression of Baltimore from a relatively safe, emerging city before the Freddie Gray riots to today’s basket case based on a softer approach to crime.

What Baltimore Needs To Realize:

Understand that citizens control crime. This is criminology 101. Without citizens taking the lead, there is little law enforcement can do to affect a safe city.

Every community has the right to the kind of policing it wants; it’s why elected sheriff departments control many of the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Citizens voting for sheriffs get the right to express their views on their crime control policies every four years. Why shouldn’t this philosophy be extended to urban residents?

There are demands from citizens to city halls to “fix” crime problems. That’s not how it works. Every community should decide for itself what kind of policing it wants and to do the heavy lifting as to crime policies. If you don’t want drug possession arrests or traffic stops for minor violations, you have the right to say so while recognizing that existing laws don’t change.  Every police officer and agency exercises immense discretion. But citizens have to be willing to live with the results; you can’t say that you don’t want arrests for drug possession but call the police when kids and young adults are using marijuana on the corner at 1:00 a.m.

The primary job of law enforcement is to stabilize communities through enforcement so they can control their own crime problems.

Law enforcement has very limited powers. No amount of police can stop you from beating your wife, buying stolen goods, doing hard drugs, renting out your firearm, embracing violence as a solution, not reporting what you know about a crime, or any other dysfunctional activity. If these things took place in the Baltimore of my childhood, the neighborhood fathers and mothers would put a stop to it. When I disrespected a cop for telling us to get off the street, a neighbor’s mother dragged me down the street to my mother who promptly whooped my butt followed by more by my father when he came home.

If you want to know the true power of law enforcement and crime control, then remove them, which is what happened when six officers were indicted for the death of Freddie Gray. Hundreds of police officers quit while the rest refused to engage in proactive policing. Crime and homicides skyrocketed to shocking proportions. Criminal elements took control of the streets.

Per Wikipedia, “In an interview in The Guardian, David Simon, himself a former The Baltimore Sun police reporter, ascribed the most recent surge in murders to the high-profile decision by Baltimore state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, to charge six city police officers following the death of Freddie Gray after he fell into a coma while in police custody in April 2015. “What Mosby basically did was send a message to the Baltimore police department: ‘I’m going to put you in jail for making a bad arrest.’

You can’t stereotype your police officers as dysfunctional or corrupt or uncaring and expect them to risk their lives on your behalf by engaging in proactive or aggressive policing.

Data from the US Department of Justice clearly states that proactive policing reduces crime. Proactive policing is the only modality declared as an effective crime control policy based on hundreds of well-done studies in the US and throughout the world. You have to decide the level of police proactivity you are willing to live with. Violence interrupters or social strategies have limited research as to effectiveness.

The vast majority of the criminals causing the violence come from badly broken homes. The overwhelming majority were abused or neglected as children. Many if not most have PTSD from witnessing violence at home and on the streets. Many (if not most) have brain damage from malnutrition or violence. Critics will say that I’m making excuses for bad behavior. There is enough data to suggest that I’m correct.

The city’s ability to keep engaged police officers who truly emphasize with community problems is your responsibility. You keep insisting that police-community relations are the sole prerogative of the city and its police force. It’s not.

You are responsible for encouraging and keeping good police officers through your everyday interactions and special efforts. When was the last time you invited a cop into your church or your home for lunch or dinner?

Criminals see you as powerless. Criminals understand accountability. No accountability equals more crime. If they are not arrested for murder or robbery, what stops them from committing more? No information from the community as to who’s responsible for a crime means you are putting your sons and daughters at great risk. Per urban mayors throughout the country, increased arrests are necessary. Prosecutions are necessary. Incarcerations for the violent are necessary.

Criminals gravitate to areas of disorder. How your community looks as to trash or graffiti or unkept properties invites criminals. Your going to insist that it’s the city’s problem? It’s not. It’s yours.

You have to be physically seen to discourage violence. Criminals need to understand that you own your neighborhood.

Blaming guns for violence is merely a politician’s way of sidestepping responsibility. It’s an excuse for inactivity. We all know that there is no amount of gun control that will get firearms out of the hands of the violent. For “common sense” gun control to work, you have to ban Constitutionally protected handguns (responsible for the overwhelming amount of gun violence and mass shootings) and wait for a generation or two or three for it to have an impact.

Per CNN, “Those gun laws — which are under threat thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision — only go so far in a country awash in guns, where there’s almost no action at the federal level, and where there is so much variation in gun laws from state to state and even within states.” A blanket statement on gun control is problematic because there are dozens of strategies in “common sense gun control.” Red flag laws, gun safety provisions, limits on firearms or magazine capacities, or universal background checks make sense to many (if they can survive Supreme Court challenges). But with 350-400 million Constitutionally protected firearms in the hands of private citizens, “common sense gun control” laws will be very limited in impact. By the way, is the lack of accountability for criminal actions the reason for people arming themselves? By not making arrests and prosecutions, are we encouraging guns in our communities?

Criminal rehabilitation programs will not save your sons or daughters leaving prison. Per the US Department of Justice, they don’t work, or they don’t work well, and the vast majority of released offenders return to crime. There’s nothing wrong with programs (especially drug and mental health treatment) in prison based on humanitarian grounds and keeping prisons safe. There is something wrong with misleading the public as to their impact.

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What Baltimore Needs To Do

Baltimore needs to have honest conversations with its citizens. Politicians won’t tell you anything that will reduce their chances for election. They will blame guns or lack of economic development or anything that excuses your (and their) personal responsibilities for crime control.

You elected a prosecutor who told you that lower-level crimes should not be charged and that cops will be held accountable for split-second judgment decisions. Violence skyrocketed. Per the New York Times, you elected mayors saying the same thing.

The city needs to understand that the only proven crime control method, based on a US Department of Justice study of hundreds of research projects is proactive policing, which means police officers confronting suspected criminals. The city needs to accept that the majority of people questioned will not be charged with a crime. The city and its communities need to decide the level of proactivity it’s willing to accept.

Proactive policing requires a level of aggressiveness on the part of police officers and it’s inevitable that “confrontations” will result in the use of force that will create unfavorable publicity. If negative incidents result in overwhelming publicity, police officers will stop using the strategy, and crime will increase dramatically.

Arrests are the key ingredient in crime control. Arrests plummeted after the prosecutor’s office brought criminal charges against six city police officers in the Freddie Gray case and all the charges were dropped after not guilty verdicts. Arrests in Baltimore are still at record lows. Per “10 Ways States Can Lower Crime” from the progressive Council On State Government, “Research clearly shows that higher odds of being caught deter crime.”

The city needs to try innovative approaches to crime control. The Baltimore Banner claims that, “The 33% reduction in homicides and nonfatal shootings in the Western District follows Mayor Brandon Scott’s revival of a crime prevention approach known as the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS), an alternative way of policing the city’s most violent offenders.” Just understand that research projects need to be replicated and studied by independent methodologists. There are a wide array of crime control endeavors that worked once and did not work elsewhere. Also, GVRS is basically a program known as CeaseFire, a proactive policing strategy proven effective elsewhere focusing on targeted, high-risk offenders offering them either enhanced social services or increased enforcement. But based on Oregon’s law decriminalizing drug possession, “less than 1 percent of the people eligible for treatment under Measure 110—a paltry 136 people—ended up getting help. In fact, out of the 2,576 tickets written by police for drug possession, only 116 people called the help hotline to get the ticket waived, with the vast majority of the others choosing to pay the minimal fine instead.” Offenders rarely willingly engage in social services unless forced by the justice system.

The city needs to dramatically increase police salaries and hire hundreds of additional police officers. Baltimore’s reputation for protest, progressive values, and unsupportive citizens will be a challenge.

The city needs to bring in paid, off-duty officers from other jurisdictions to supplement police numbers (if they are willing to come).

The city needs to hire police officers based on a limited five-year time commitment like the military with benefits after service.

Every citizen needs to be supportive of the police officers who patrol their communities. There is nothing beyond the public’s support holding police officers in place. They don’t have to be in your community when they can easily transfer to jurisdictions wanting and embracing them and probably paying them more.

The city needs to invest in innovative technologies (i.e., drones responding to all sounds of gunfire-putting all released from prison on GPS monitoring, shot spotters, facial recognition, DNA and rape kit analysis).

There should be publicly available lists of current violent offenders (i.e., those on parole and probation) in communities.

Hire prosecutors who will hold criminals accountable for most charges. It doesn’t mean jail or prison or parole and probation or even guilty verdicts for all, but accountability is a must to send the proper message. Note that traditionally, urban prosecutors dismiss charges for approximately 20-30 percent of arrests for a wide variety of reasons. The federal government can dismiss up to 50 percent depending on the category. Prosecutors have the power to dismiss charges and expunge records for minor crimes and for those without an extensive criminal history in exchange for community service.

Hire retired cops to review unsolved crimes.

Do podcasts and create blogs on unsolved crimes.

Enlist the assistance of the true crime community to help solve unsolved crimes. Publicize their findings.

The state should offer Baltimore drug and mental health treatment on demand. Citizens need to realize, however, that treatment strategies rarely work or work quickly and must be repeated multiple times, thus becoming very expensive.

Parole and probation agents are underutilized resources. They know who the criminals are and what they are doing. They should be embedded with law enforcement daily. “Some crimes (an estimated 1 in 10 violent felonies) are committed by people already involved in the justice system who are under probation supervision.” City police officers should have a computerized system where they can poll parole and probation agents daily as to possible suspects.

There needs to be weekly or monthly polling of Baltimore communities as to their perceptions of policing and crime and suggestions as to what the city could do. Results should be published immediately and analyzed over time.

Polling should be used for communities as to their preferences for enforcement. Yes, it will be problematic as to what cops do when they cross community lines. But citizens need input and ownership of crime issues.

There should be numerous apps or text messages or anonymous crime reporting opportunities.

Child abuse and neglect is the primary root cause of crime and violence. Baltimore through the state needs to create social workers and nurses to intervene early for family and child welfare. Per Crime Solutions.Gov, if cities had such a capacity, it could cut long-range violence considerably. Our prisons are filled to the brim with formally abused, battered, and sexually assaulted children.

Bail reform should have provisions as to the level of violence involved and the offender’s criminal history. If you beat your wife with a frying pan and have physically assaulted her several times, you have lost your right to presumed release without bail.

The state should fund a victim and witness protection program to make sure that people can safely report what they know.

In conclusion, the citizens of the city of Baltimore need to understand that they control crime, not the police department or any other aspect of the justice system. Without personal involvement in keeping communities clean and orderly and without setting community standards for what’s acceptable behavior, crime control will not happen.


Final Analysis

Much of what’s offered here has been advocated by every pastor and religious leader in the city. There is nothing here that hasn’t been previously discussed. Loved children and family-community stability plus police support are the keys to crime control.

Baltimore has produced an endless list of pundits and politicians advocating a softer, more humane approach to crime and justice. It hasn’t worked. Criminals respect power only. Baltimore’s crime and violence problems are known throughout the world. There are no employers or business owners chomping at the bit to locate in Baltimore.

Poverty and income inequality will not end until there is crime control.

Yes, I’m for a more humane criminal justice system and service-oriented police force and I fully understand that there have been city police officers who have abused their powers egregiously.  Yes, I’m completely supportive of vast increases in social services based on a humanitarian basis. The problem is that there are few well-done research studies that support much of what people put forward as progressive crime control solutions.

Yes, I understand that criminals control much of the city and people are afraid. I’m not asking citizens to confront them or even talk to them. I am asking citizens to keep their neighborhoods clean and report suspicious activity and give police officers the information they need to make arrests and hold criminals accountable, and to set standards for everyone else.

Much of what I propose for Baltimore and all other cities facing escalating violence will be immediately disregarded as unaffordable and unattainable. The American Civil Liberties Union will immediately oppose lists or technologies.

People will ask where the money will come from for cash-strapped cities. I do not have an answer. But if Bill Bates can come up with twelve million dollars to address farting cows, the city can find the money from federal and private grants to save lives. Scrap the proposed mass transit system for west Baltimore and use the money for crime control.

People will suggest that I ignored the root causes of crime beyond child abuse. There are correlates of crime like poverty or drug use that cannot be easily remediated. But I am unaware of any jurisdiction in the country that was able to eliminate social and economic inequities.

But regardless, what I suggest remains valid.  The city needs to hold offenders accountable. Citizens need to take control of their communities. Proactive policing needs to return. Citizens need to openly support law enforcement officers and make them feel welcome in their communities. Citizens need to decide for themselves the kind of law enforcement they want or are willing to tolerate.

Without citizens and communities taking the lead, and without sufficient funding, the unbelievably high rates of violence in Baltimore will continue for decades to come.

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed ( provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications, and other announcements from the site.

Solutions To “The Tragedy Of Baltimore’s Violence Problem”

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Solutions To “The Tragedy Of Baltimore’s Violence Problem”


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