Bureau of Justice Assistance
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Strategy Reviews Needed

The need for reviews of law enforcement strategies can be seen in crime statistics. In 1988, Baltimore experienced 234 homicides, of which 112 (48 percent) were drug related. In addition, BPD's Planning and Research Division recorded 1,155 aggravated assaults with handguns on the city streets. The drug-related percentage of these shootings is not recorded, but if the percentage is approximately that of the murders, 554 individuals were victims of a drug-related incident.

Using Baltimore's murder rate as a barometer of violence, two other factors need to be considered. First, Baltimore has one of the most sophisticated shock trauma medical systems in the nation. From June 1987 to July 1988, Baltimore trauma centers handled 328 city shootings, with a mortality rate of 16.5 percent. Two hundred seventy-four victims were saved by the trauma teams' outstanding medical skills—a factor definitely contributing to a lower homicide rate.7

Second, Baltimore has been spared the ravages of crack cocaine, the influx of out-of-state gangs, and the violent struggles of rival gangs securing distribution lines for their crack. During the past 30 years, the law enforcement profession has assumed responsibility for the drug problem but has had little or no effect on it. Law enforcement is not designed to change society but instead to cope with its symptoms—to keep them under control.

This bulletin maintains that the gang violence under review in Baltimore is a symptom of the powerful influence of gang leaders. These gang leaders, though small in number, are largely responsible for the fear that touches Baltimore's citizens. Head gangsters are vulnerable, however, because the violence they command is revulsive to others, and law enforcement can direct that revulsion toward combating gangsters' ambitions. This bulletin reports a technique used to target gang leaders by using their own violence against them and by publicizing that those who seek to build drug empires with violence will be the subject of special attention from law enforcement agencies. If violence is viewed as a losing proposition, then gangs may be repudiated in favor of other, less violent ways of reaping profits from the drug trade. Perhaps law enforcement cannot completely eradicate the illegal drug trade, but it can reduce the violence that often accompanies it.

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