Guest Editorial: Effectively tackling crime, grime and the city services decline by Sheila Dixon

(BALTIMORE – January 7, 2020) – As we enter a new year celebrating life and looking to fulfill the resolutions we have set for the coming months, there’s no doubt that we should consider ourselves fortunate that we have made it to see another year. Unfortunately, 348 of our family, friends and neighbors have lost their lives due to homicide in the past year across the City of Baltimore. An even more devastating travesty is the 1,659 men, women and children we have lost to violence over the past five years.

Twelve years ago, as your Mayor, I found myself facing a similar rise in violent crime which prompted me to act responsibly by putting the right people in place and implementing a detailed crime plan that sought to strategically tackle the systemic issues that caused people to break the law in the first place. Elevated to the post after my predecessor was elected Governor, I began the work of tackling crime by putting systems in place that sought to get repeat violent offenders off of our streets while offering rehabilitative services to those non-violent offenders breaking the law to fuel a drug habit.

I chose a command staff who understood the underlying problems that existed in our neighborhoods because they were born and raised in the communities they were now patrolling. We ensured that officers were walking the beat and engaging the citizens of this city responsibly. There was a detailed plan for curbing crime while improving the quality of life across Baltimore, and while we had a few bad apples that existed within the department, Commissioner Fred Bealefeld and I held our brave men and women in blue to a higher standard, effectively weeding out those who were caught misrepresenting the oath of office that so many men and women risk their lives to protect.

The day-to-day operational command meetings we had as a team, along with the wrap-around services we provided to citizens, tackled issues such as housing, employment, advanced education and poverty. This led to my administration effectively reducing crime to historic lows—both in annual homicides and quality of life crimes. The average homicide rate under my administration was almost 100 homicides less per year than what we’ve seen recently, and it ultimately led to the first time the city recorded less than 200 homicides in one year—the greatest reduction of crime and violence in over three decades. These results came from an administration that possessed a constant sense of urgency, an unwillingness to accept the status quo, and prioritized hiring that attracted the best of the best to help lead the city’s various departments and agencies.

So, while you work to fulfill your New Year’s resolutions, I ask that you make one of those goals to properly research and vet the Democratic candidates for mayor that you will have the opportunity to vote for on April 28th. Don’t allow the outside noise of who has the most money, charisma or pizzazz distort the simple facts that should top your list of priorities in this race—who can effectively reduce crime, eradicate grime and provide efficient City services on time. There is only one candidate in this race who has a proven track record of doing just that. There is only one candidate who has was able to provide an increased level of City services, successfully implement an effective crime fighting plan that led to historic lows and was able to tighten up a ballooning police overtime budget, all while navigating through one of the worst fiscal crises of our time. I am that candidate.

Later this year, you have the power to take back control of your city. Your decision will determine what your neighborhood will look like over the next four years. Do you want more of the same—increased shootings and historic homicide rates—or would you want to see a consistent reduction in crime that leads to historic lows in violence—something that I have delivered on during my time as Mayor?  This election is less about personality and more about principle and quality of life. We only have one opportunity to get this right. Let’s make sure we do just that and take back our city.

Sheila Dixon

The writer is a democratic candidate for Mayor in Baltimore City, and the City’s first female Mayor serving from 2007 – 2010.