In recent years, problems confronting the police have become more complex and the demands from stakeholders have increased, but resources have diminished. While Baltimore experienced significant reductions in gun violence from 2007 to 2011, those reductions stalled from 2011 to 2014 and homicides surged to historic highs in 2015. Baltimore police have tried many violence prevention strategies such as zero-tolerance policing and aggressively combatting the illegal drug trade and gangs. Most of these efforts have not been scientifically evaluated for their impact on violent crime, and there has been no research on their impact on residents’ views of the police. In response to these challenges, the Johns Hopkins University created a partnership with the Baltimore Police Department to apply data and research to policing. The research will focus on implementing the most effective strategies in combatting violent crime and doing it in a way that repairs relationships in communities. In 2015, the Abell Foundation awarded a grant in support of this collaboration.
The researchers and police identified key priority areas for their work together:
Assessing ongoing efforts to remove the most violent criminals from Baltimore streets: Researchers will assess two current efforts to determine where they have been effective and where they may be improved—B-Fed, an initiative to establish a homicide and violence reduction task force involving the Baltimore Police Department and federal law enforcement agencies; and The War Room, established in July 2015 to identify and remove from the streets the most important individuals driving gun violence.
Deterring illegal gun possession and use: Illegal gun possession is closely tied to Baltimore's homicides and nonfatal shootings. Researchers will work with police to develop evidence-based programs and procedures designed to reduce illegal gun availability and possession.
Fighting crime and building relationships with residents: Researchers will develop a foot patrol initiative for the Baltimore Police Department that will involve meeting with command staff, developing curricula, creating patrol officer and supervisory guidance, and assessing the efforts for continuous improvement.
Improving rewards for crime tips: Baltimore has one of the smallest reward systems among major U.S. cities for citizens to provide information that helps police solve crimes. Researchers will review best practices and recommend the most effective way to implement an improved tips program in Baltimore.
Improving police recruitment efforts. Researchers will conduct an assessment of current recruitment efforts by and on behalf of the Baltimore Police Department. At the end of the assessment, recommendations will be made to the senior leadership of the Baltimore Police Department.