Donald Fry: Where’s the outrage over crime?

It’s been 10 years since the Greater Baltimore Committee urged the city to adopt a goal of reducing murder and violent crime by 50 percent. Reducing crime is essential for other economic growth strategies to be successful, a 1999 GBC report to city leaders concluded.

So, how has the city done in the last 10 years? There has been some progress. The murder rate is down 22 percent from 1999. Violent crime is down 37 percent.

Statistics say the city is safer. But headlines over the past six months say otherwise.

“Stray bullet wounds six-year-old playing in northeast Baltimore.”

“Woman hit by bullet fired outside her home.”

“Gunfire in Harborplace.”

And last fall, a stray bullet hit a 13-year-old girl who was doing her homework.

Despite numerous fresh, innovative crime-reduction strategies and tactics developed by the city’s police department, shootings continue to plague the city — now to the point where even children appear to increasingly find themselves in the line of fire.

No one can dispute that something remains terribly wrong with this picture.

We celebrate, and should celebrate, incremental crime-reduction and statistical success. But as a community, we remain in denial that even our city’s reduced crime rates are substantially higher than almost all other cities and regions in the U.S.

Which cries out for a question to be asked: Where is the outrage in our community? In August, six weeks after a stray bullet hit a five-year-old girl in Southwest Baltimore, only three people from her neighborhood showed up for a “Citizens on Patrol” event to show solidarity against crime.

Often there is outrage when shootings occur, but it doesn’t linger. For our future’s sake, all of us in our neighborhoods, businesses, law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system need to go beyond the statistics and ask ourselves what we can do better to reduce violent crime.

Then we must act … together.

With violence in our midst, complacency is unacceptable.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland. This piece was adapted from a commentary broadcast November 17 on WYPR-FM.