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Baltimore Mayor Pugh says crime 'out of control,' orders agencies to meet with police every morning

Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- Calling violence in Baltimore "out of control," Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered 30 agency heads to meet every morning at police headquarters, and to make crime reduction the top mission not only of police, but also of health workers, housing officials and public works crews.

The mayor ordered the directors of more than half of the city's 55 departments to report to meetings daily at 8 a.m., when they will plan with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis where weeds should be cut, lead paint covered and drug houses boarded up and job applications can be handed out, among other tasks.

Pugh appeared at City Hall Thursday flanked by agency heads.

"Violence in the city is out of control," she said. "I want every neighborhood to know I am extremely concerned and focused on reducing violence."

Killings in the city have surged past 300 this year for a third year in a row. Violent crime is up 13 percent over last year, and reports of groups of youths attacking people apparently at random have dominated recent local news cycles.

Pugh said she was calling on businesses and philanthropies to help fund a $10 million expansion of the anti-violence Safe Streets program. And she extended night and weekend hours at six recreation centers to try to keep young people out of harm's way.

"We must do everything we can," Pugh said. "We've already hit 303 murders, which is totally unacceptable. ... We know we can do better."

City Councilman Brandon Scott, the chairman of the council's public safety committee and a frequent critic of Pugh, said he was pleased with the mayor's approach. He said addressing broken street lights, vacant buildings and other problems can help cut down on crime.

Scott said he has been saying as much for months.

"My only disappointment is it didn't happen earlier," he said. "I think it can have an immediate impact. When you're focusing on small geographical areas, you can see the same block where we've had three shootings, there are hundreds of housing violations and streets lights out and a rec center that can be opened."

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