Well-respected leader of ‘Safe Streets Baltimore’ shot and killed in the city

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BALTIMORE, MD- A local community leader is dead as violence continues to plague Baltimore into the new year.

Police are investigating the shooting death of Dante Barksdale, who was shot to death Sunday morning. Officers responded to the 200 block of Douglas Court at around 11:17 a.m. and found Barksdale with a gunshot wound to the head.

 

Barksdale was transported via EMS to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Barksdale’s death was confirmed by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, as well as Baltimore police, according to WJZ in Baltimore.

Scott described Barksdale as “the heart and soul of Safe Streets,” where he worked for nine years.

In 2018, WBAL-11 reported that Safe Streets is a program that “operates with violence interrupters—people who try to help others resolve conflict without picking up guns.”

The outlet reported that the program started in 2007 and was taken over by the city in 2018 under the auspices of the Health Department.

“My heart is broken with the loss of my friend Dante Barksdale, a beloved leader in our community who committed his life to saving lives in Baltimore. He was the heart and soul of Safe Streets, where he worked for 9 years.

“His death is a major loss to Safe Streets, the communities they serve and the entire City of Baltimore. I send my deepest condolences and prayers to Dante’s family in this tragic time,” Scott said in a Sunday statement, WBAL reported.

Scott said that he would not “let those who chose to violently take his life dampen the light of his work.”

“While I am devastated by the loss of my brother in the fight to save lives in Baltimore, I will not let those who chose to violently take hi life to dampen the light of his work. The work that Dante did, and the work that so many in Safe Streets and other street-based organizations do to actively interrupt violence, is critical to my priority of reducing violence and making Baltimore’s neighborhoods safer.”

Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement said:

“Dante was not only a respected Safe Streets team member but a beloved friend to so many in Baltimore. He turned his life around and worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to prevent gun violence in our communities by working with those who were at the highest risk of being a shooter or the victim of shooting.

“Our office mourns this senseless loss of life with the rest of Baltimore City and is committed to honoring his life and his light by continuing to work to end gun violence in our city once and for all.”

Barksdale’s death should serve as a wakeup call to politicians and activists across the country who have been demanding the defunding of police officers and using civilians such as Barksdale to intervene with violent criminals.

Simply put, this is what law enforcement authorities and police advocates have been warning about since the “defund the police” mantra came into vogue last summer.

The Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, Michael Harrison released as statement on Sunday:

“The men and women of the Baltimore Police Department offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of Dante Barksdale. His work in outreach, mediating conflicts and reducing gun violence in our city was invaluable and he embodied a message of redemption and peace to the many young people of our city.”

The Associated Press reported that Baltimore recorded 335 homicides in 2020, which was actually 13 fewer than in 2019. However the AP said that 48 women and girls were killed, which is double the number of females killed in the city compared to only three years ago. Much of that increase has been attributed to domestic violence.

In 2018, Barksdale told WBAL-11:

“If there is a Safe Streets site next to your community, you are welcome to walk in and engage with one of our violence interrupters, and if they have a rapport or a relationship with some of the people that you might be having a conflict with, then I encourage you to tell them about it because I really believe that they can help you mediate a conflict.”

Baltimore police authorities are seeking the public’s help in trying to apprehend Barksdale’s killer by either calling detectives at (410) 396-2100 or if they wish to remain anonymous contacting the Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.

Those considering the use of civilians in law enforcement roles might want to rethink that strategy. The death of Mr. Barksdale should serve as a cautionary tale to the defund the police crowd, or there will be more blood on the streets from innocent people such as he.  

Law Enforcement Today will update this story as additional information becomes available. 

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For more on Baltimore’s crime issues, we invite you to read a story we ran last year about the number of unsolved murders in the city. For that, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

BALTIMORE, MD.- President Trump has been known occasionally to come up with numbers off the top of his head, and sometimes he’s a little bit off. However, that is not the case where it concerns crime in Baltimore.

On Tuesday, the president was giving a speech on police reform, and mentioned that last year, over two-thirds of the murders in Baltimore went unsolved. That was confirmed later on Tuesday by the Baltimore Police Department.

WJZ-13 in Baltimore reported the president’s remarks.

 

“In many cases local law enforcement is underfunded, understaffed, and under supported,” the president said. “Forty seven percent of all murders in Chicago and 68% of all murders in Baltimore went without arrests last year.”

On Tuesday, the president signed an executive order in order to address police reforms after two high-profile police killings of black men over the past three weeks. The president’s order involves three components: credentialing and certifying police departments, boosting information-sharing to better track officers with excessive use-of-force complaints and creating services for addressing mental health, drug addition and homelessness.

While the executive order does not make federal funding contingent on implementation of those reforms, it does prioritize federal grants for department which meet those guidelines, according to CBS News.

In confirming the president’s statement on Tuesday, the Baltimore PD said they had a 31% homicide clearance rate in which cases were closed in 2019.

A spokesperson for the department said that since Commissioner Michael Harrison’s arrival, the department has reallocated assets and dedicated more funds to the homicide unit in the city, adding 14 new investigators to the unit.

The spokesperson said the department is currently focusing on staffing and reduction in caseloads for homicides in the city.

The clearance rate this far in 2020 is much improved, standing at 45%.

“The Baltimore Police Department recognizes the need to improve our Homicide clearance rate and continues to make the necessary changes to be more effective and efficient. There have been several important improvements made which include not only increasing staffing levels and developing training but implementing necessary accountability measures to improve investigations.

“Improving the clearance rate involves collaboration with the community and other local, state, and federal partners which the Baltimore police Department is committed to continue doing and expanding on,” the department said in a statement to WJZ.

“Overall, BPD recognizes the need for continuous improvement and is up for the challenge of changing this narrative. Our department embraces reforms because the residents of our city deserve a world-class police force that inspires trust, ensures safety, and protects the constitutional rights of the people we serve. Rebuilding trust is critical to a safer Baltimore.”

However, Baltimore may hit a bump in the road with getting crime under control. Jumping on the “defund the police” bandwagon, the City Council recently voted to remove $22 million from the police budget and direct it to public services.

“This round of cuts that came with these hearings have demonstrated the will of the people,” said Harrison. “We are really kind of a basic functioning police department. There are impacts. Some of them could be negative.”

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City Council President Brandon Scott said of the cuts, “We are going to have to start responsibly reducing the city’s dependence on the police department’s budget so that we can reimagine public safety and investment.”

 

Mayor Jack Young, who is not in favor of cutting the police budget, has until July 1 to decide.

Harrison said:

“I am certainly in favor of building those programs and funding those programs. I have only advocated that we be thoughtful, and we be careful about creating a gap in service.”

The cuts would mostly come from police overtime, although the marine and mounted units would also be cut. The chief could redirect money in order to keep them.

While the clearance rate for murders in Baltimore is up, so too is the murder rate. The city is currently ahead of the rate for last year, which was the second highest on record.

Meanwhile, President Trump, in signing the executive order on Tuesday, met with families of families of men who were killed in encounters with police officers. He met with the families of Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, and Cameron Lamb, as well as with the mother of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood earlier this year.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother noted that President Trump was “very compassionate” when he met with the families affected. According to The Hill, she told Fox News that the president was “very receiving” and listened intently to all the participants during the closed-door meeting at the White House, where cameras were not permitted. That should take the left-leaning media’s “photo-op” narrative out of play.

“I was very, very emotional throughout the whole conference,” Cooper-Jones said. “He was very compassionate. He showed major concern for all families. Not just one family, but for all families.”

When asked by reporters if she was satisfied with Trump’s executive order, she said she didn’t think the order “was enough” but said it was definitely “a start.”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1273080720794279937

The families were accompanied to the meeting by Lee Merritt, an attorney, who then left to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on police use of force.

Merritt told ABC News that “tears were flowing” during the “heavy meeting” at the White House.

While Merritt acknowledged that the president’s concern was genuine, he expressed doubt that it would lead to meaningful reform.

“I believe it was genuine concern for each of the families represented,” Merritt said. He gave no indication that the families in that room reflected a problem in America, that policy could actually resolve it—and it can—so that was my concern.”

Merritt did acknowledge that the group “had secured a commitment to independent federal investigations of each of the families that accompanied me to the White House.”

“This commitment is not currency. This commitment does not help save lives in the future but potentially will help these families get justice,”Merritt said in a tweet.

In his remarks at the signing, President Trump said:

“Many of these families lost their loved ones in deadly interactions with police. To all of the hurting families, I want you to know that all Americans mourn by your side. Your loved ones will not have died in vain. We are one nation. We grieve together and we heal together.”

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