Map of New Baltimore Police Districts Project Seeks to Balance Law Enforcement Resources and ‘Bring Together’ Neighborhoods – Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Police Department released a proposed new map of its nine police districts on Thursday that promises a significant redistribution of law enforcement resources and seeks to mend divisions in neighborhoods that are currently spread across multiple districts.

Officials presented the plan as a step towards more efficient operation of the department despite a growing staff shortage. Harrison said the new districts would distribute police resources more evenly across the city, instead of concentrating them in some areas more than others.

The proposal moves the city one step closer to establishing new district boundaries — the first substantive change in more than 60 years. The redistricting process, which began last year, was required under state legislation passed in 2019 that directs Baltimore police to reassess district boundaries after each decennial census.

The map released Thursday reflects big changes in population and crime trends since the districts were established in 1959, officials said. The ministry is accepting public comments on the proposal through its website until July 28. The maintainers will take this into account and then publish a finalized version.

Among the most significant proposed changes: The Western District, which currently covers the smallest geographic area of ​​less than 3 square miles, would expand to include the neighborhoods of Reservoir Hill, Bolton Hill and Upton west of Martin Luther Boulevard King Jr., and the Central District would move east and stretch from Fells Point north to East Biddle Street.

Meanwhile, the so-called “tri-district area” – where the West, Southwest and South districts now converge where West Baltimore Street intersects Fulton Avenue and Monroe Street – would merge into the Southwest District, including Carrollton Ridge, Union Square and Poppleton. It would eliminate what officials called a problematic border that confuses residents of an area plagued by rampant gun violence.

The Eastern District would also move northeast to include Belair-Edison, Clifton Park, Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello and Ednor Gardens-Lakeside. This would reduce the size of the North Eastern District, which is currently the largest at 17 square miles. Residents have long complained about distant resources.

Greenmount Avenue would become the eastern boundary of the Northern District, which would also gain Central Park Heights, Park Circle and more. The nearby Northwest District would move south to include Franklintown and Leakin Park.

In announcing the proposed changes, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said a primary goal was to define districts based on neighborhood boundaries, instead of dividing some communities into multiple districts. The proposal would unite 18 neighborhoods.

He said the change came in direct response to residents’ demands and in the interests of fairness. Officials have sought to bring together communities facing similar challenges such as gun violence, poverty and disinvestment.

“More than ever, our agency is sensitive to the impacts of this,” Harrison said at a Thursday afternoon news conference at Baltimore Police Headquarters. “Too often redistricting has led to marginalized communities of color and poor communities deprived of needed resources or representation.

“It’s not,” he said. “We will continue to work to build trust and relationships.”

In addition to public comment, officials said they evaluated data on calls for service, crime trends, high-violence areas, workload assessments and population changes to develop the new boundaries. .

A lot has changed since 1959, when Baltimore had nearly a million people. The 2020 census marked the first time in over a century that the city’s population fell below 600,000.

Meanwhile, crime, including gun violence, is largely concentrated in a limited number of neighborhoods. In total, the Baltimore Police Department receives about 1.5 million calls for duty each year, the majority of which are spread across fewer than 34 precincts, according to recent analysis prepared for the Federal Consent Decree Monitoring Team. .

City police are operating under a consent decree after a federal investigation found an unconstitutional policing pattern, particularly in minority neighborhoods. The redistricting process is part of a staffing plan required by the accreditation decree, which provides for a realignment or regrouping of districts based on calls for service and the population.

The proposed changes would create a more balanced workload across the department, Harrison said.

Members of the Baltimore City Council have already provided feedback on the draft map to city police and administration. Councilman Mark Conway, chair of the city council’s public safety and government operations committee, said he met with police last week to share his initial concerns.

Conway, who represents part of northeast Baltimore, said the most glaring problem he sees is that the proposed map would divide the York Road corridor into the northern and northeast districts.

“York Road has always been the great divide between the east and west of the city,” Conway said. “Wealthier neighborhoods on the west side and less wealthy neighborhoods on the east side. I think we want to be very aware of those divisions.

Conway said the York Road boundary also makes it more difficult to manage policing along the corridor, which has been a priority during his time on council. Conway currently has a bill in committee to create a business improvement district along a two-mile stretch of York Road.

“We want a comprehensive approach there,” he said. “Having literally just across the street a different commander, a different approach, I think that might be a bit problematic.”

Councilwoman Odette Ramos said she had similar concerns about the proposed boundaries in her district of North Central Baltimore.

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The plan calls for Greenmount Avenue to be the dividing line between the Eastern and Northern districts.

“They basically did it from the data, but it doesn’t incorporate the dynamics of the neighborhood,” Ramos said. “You can’t separate a hallway.”

This has long been evident on Monument Street, which is currently the dividing line between two districts, Ramos said, and the result is less continuity of policing.

Ramos said she also met with police officials to discuss the plan and they have so far been receptive to feedback from council members.

She said she was glad to see that the number of vacant properties was taken as a data point when drawing district lines. Areas with more vacant properties will experience more crime, she said, but they also have residents who are often more reluctant to call emergency services, which skews call numbers.

Ultimately, the limits have to go somewhere, but officials said creating the best map could mean significant improvements in policing in Baltimore.

“It’s crucial that we get it right,” Mayor Brandon Scott said at Thursday’s press conference. “This will allow us to modernize policing and transform the BPD into a world-class law enforcement agency.”

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