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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott cares more about politics than public safety

PUBLISHED: April 10, 2024 | www.baltimoresun.com


As he took office in December 2020, Mayor Brandon Scott boldly promised Baltimore residents a safer future, withhomicides plunging to less than 300 annually, a target unmet since 2014, when he was in his third year as a city councilman. Six months after his inauguration as mayor, Scott released a violence reduction plan that further promised to reduce all gun violence by 15% annually over the next five years.


Scott’s promise was predictably broken before the year was out, with 338 homicides recorded in 2021 and 726 nonfatal shootings, both representing a slight increase from the year before. In 2022, homicides were essentially flat, at 334, and nonfatal shootings fell to 688 — a meager 5% drop. And last year, while homicides finally fell below 300, shootings decreased by just 7%. So much for 15%.


The signature of Scott’s administration has been words over deeds.


As chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee in 2017 and again in 2019, then-Councilman Scott also unveiled “comprehensive crime plans” meant to arrest the crime spiral that began in 2015, under the administration of his mentor and friend, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who left office in 2016. His hollow crime reduction rhetoric continued under the next two mayors. But instead of diminishing, annual homicides soared to record levels.


During his first years as mayor, Scott remained mum about former disgraced State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s staggering incompetence and blindness to lawlessness affecting the community, including business owners. In contrast, current State’s Attorney Ivan Bates has honored his crime-fighting promises by creating a Citation Docket to end the folly of crime without punishment for quality-of-life offenses. Mayor Scott, however, has refused even the modest role of a supporting actor, with police under his administration failing to write more than a few dozen citations.


This year, City Councilman Mark Conway scheduled several oversight hearings by the Public Safety Committee, which he chairs, to understand why the mayor’s police department habitually remained in their vehicles, refusing to issue citations as directed by the city’s top prosecutor. The hearings revealed the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement had not even signed a memorandum of understanding that had been sent over months earlier from the prosecutor’s office to provide the necessary wrap-around services to prosecute low-level offenders and juveniles.


The mayor’s deafening silence to State’s Attorney Bates’ plea for collaboration persists. The state’s attorney tasked his Juvenile Division to work alongside his Major Investigations Unit to target a juvenile crime ring wreaking havoc on select communities across Baltimore. The unit uncovered a crime spree alleged to have been conducted by roughly two dozen juveniles between the ages of 12 and 17. The juveniles are accused of committing over 100 crimes in a two-month interval in 2023, including carjacking, armed robbery, assault and handgun violations. The youths allegedly operated in roving groups ranging from two to eight members and occasionally committed armed robbery and carjackings on an industrial scale.


This investigation was fueled by multiple complaints about surging crime, including from Maryland State Senate President Bill Ferguson. It was assisted by a Baltimore Police Department task force endowed with the arrest powers that are key to success.


Mayor Scott should be lauding State’s Attorney Bates, the BPD task force, Gov. Wes Moore and United States Attorney Erek Barron for ridding Baltimore of this criminal enterprise. Instead, the mayor touts his Group Violence Reduction Strategy knowing full well the bulk of the city’s prosecutions are the handiwork of Barron and Bates. Further, the mayor is clueless about attacking juvenile, quality of life, and violent crimes, with over 11,000  automobiles stolen in the city in 2023, hundreds of violent carjackings, and even more armed robberies.


Mayor Scott has been AWOL in both state and local crime-fighting initiatives desperately needed for public safety. Has he overstayed his welcome? That is for the voters to decide. One thing is certain. This city would be on life support had it not been for Ivan Bates, Erek Barron and Governor Wes Moore.


Mr. Mayor, public safety is about more than soundbites. People are scared. They are frustrated and fed up with your inaction, petty political maneuvers and false promises. If you can’t work collaboratively with proven and elected crime fighters, then move aside for those who will.


Armstrong Williams (awilliams@baltsun.com) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun. This column is one of two he writes monthly about culture and politics, in addition to his weekly Owner’s Box column. 


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