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CJCC Addresses Recent Homicide Spike

December 10, 2008

Today was the December monthly meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a body that includes Mayor Sheila Dixon, State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy, and Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, in addition to representatives from the courts, Parole and Probation, Public Safety, Correctional Services, and a host of other organizations involved in dealing with crime in the city.

Today’s meeting was the first since a spike in homicides over the past several weeks–which has raised the eyebrows if not the ire of our apathetic burb-has hit Baltimore. In the last three weeks there have been 27 murders added to the homicide tallies, making for an average of more than one murder per day. That’s a huge increase during a year that, till now, showed a record decline in murders.

Commissioner Bealefeld, who addressed the CJCC, gave a briefing that was surprisingly, well, brief. A report handed out at the meeting showed a 53 percent rise in the homicide rate compared to the same 28-day period last year. “We’re going to stay the course on our strategy here, folks,” Bealefeld said, adding that he planned to beef up the serving of warrants, pointing out that seven of the people murdered in November had open warrants. Bealefeld did not mention the recent cuts to the police-overtime budget, which some have suggested may be linked to the crime spike.

The most arresting moment of the meeting belonged to Mayor Dixon, who described a videotape she had recently watched. A 17-year-old was in a carryout placing an order for food. Another juvenile entered and put a gun to the first boy’s head, while two girls standing in the carryout stood by laughed at the scene. According to Dixon the juvenile holding the gun robbed the 17-year-old in the carryout with the help of another juvenile, then shot the victim in the knee. While he lay bleeding, people came in and placed their orders. Dixon told reporters after the meeting that she couldn’t release the tape as it is a part of an ongoing case.

Dixon says she was shown the tape because the robbers are being tried as juveniles, despite the callousness of the alleged crime. As a result, she said, she’s called for a study of how decisions are made regarding whether suspects should be tried as juveniles or adults.

CJCC meetings are open to the public and take place on the second Wednesday of every month at 12:30 p.m. in room 510 in Courthouse East. There will be no CJCC meeting in January, so the next meeting will happen in February.

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