BY JANITA KAN
Federal law enforcement agents have charged 90 people, seized more than 51 guns, and large quantities of drugs in separate drug conspiracy investigations in Baltimore during the month of July, the Maryland U.S. Attorney announced on Aug. 3.
The arrests and seizures are part of a partnership between federal, state, and local agencies to crack down on the most violent neighborhoods in Baltimore. The investigations targeted drugs operations in the Northwest, Western, Eastern, and Southwestern Districts of Baltimore, according to a statement.
Along with the firearms and drugs, authorities also confiscated nearly $1 million in cash.
“Reducing violent crime in Baltimore is job one. It’s what we in law enforcement think about morning, noon, and night,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in the statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to prosecute the violent criminals who wreak havoc in and terrorize Baltimore’s neighborhoods.”
This announcement comes after Baltimore was put in the national spotlight due to President Donald Trump‘s criticism of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that underscored problems like squalid conditions and crime in the city.
Trump called out Cummings in a series of Twitter posts last weekend after the Democrat shouted at federal immigration officials about the conditions on the southern border. Trump suggested Cummings focus on his own district, which he called “a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess.”
Throughout the week, Trump continued to target Cummings, blaming the congressman for the condition of his district and accusing him and other politicians of wasting and stealing billions of dollars sent to the city in federal aid.
Trump also called Cummings’s Baltimore district far worse and more dangerous than the southern border, saying, “His district is considered the worst in the USA.”
Cummings has represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District since 1996. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 1,191 deaths and 4,328 gun incidents in the district since 2014. Baltimore as a whole has one of the highest murder rates in the nation even as its population has decreased considerably since 1970.
Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, described Baltimore as a place “where there is an urgent need to make sure that neighborhoods do not continue to fall apart and the population doesn’t give up on the city,” reported The Associated Press in a story about there being 343 killings in 2017, bringing the homicide rate to about 56 per 100,000 people, the highest ever.
As of July 11, there were 171 murders in the city this year, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police said. There was also an increase in non-fatal shootings.
Update: These are the most recent numbers. As of today, 170 murders (16% increase), 12 since 7/1. 388 non-fatal shootings/failed murders (28% increase). And there have been 31 shootings/failed murders since 6/30, the end date used in this story.
According to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, they had indicted 215 defendants in 2019 to July 31 under their violent crime reduction strategy, Project Safe Neighborhood program (PSN), compared to a total of 246 defendants in 2018. PSN focuses on gun, drugs, violence, and gang-related crimes, according to the statement.
“At the current pace, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland anticipates charging 50 percent more violent crime defendants under our strategy this year than in 2018,” the statement said.
Dr. Ben Carson, the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in a press conference in Baltimore on July 31 that Trump is very willing to work with people in Baltimore, including Cummings, to help improve the conditions and reduce crime rates in the city.
“The president’s emphasis is on the people. And that certainly is my emphasis,” he said.
He said that after he dropped out of the presidential race against Trump in 2016, he sat down with his former rival to talk about Americans who were living in poverty and what they could do about it. Trump later picked Carson to be his housing secretary.
“You’ve seen some of the results—opportunity zones. There are 149 of them here in the state of Maryland,” Carson said.
NTD reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.