- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2015

BALTIMORE — Nine people have been killed here since Friday, including two who were gunned down Monday, raising Baltimore’s homicide toll to 168 this year and adding to the pervasive sense that violent crime is extinguishing the charm of this city by the bay.

By this same time last year, only 105 homicides had occurred in Baltimore.

At least 20 people were shot over the weekend, and 24 have been killed in July, according to a report by The Baltimore Sun. That puts the city’s homicide tally this month on course to exceed the 42 people killed in May, Baltimore’s highest murder rate for a single month since 1990.

Federal and city authorities are responding to the escalating violence by creating a “war room” to stem the crime wave that has swept through Baltimore since riots in April after the death of a young black man in police custody.

During a Sunday press conference, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the formation of a joint effort with federal agencies to establish an around-the-clock fusion center focused on violent crime.

“We’ve identified generally four different groups of bad guys who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violence in Baltimore city, and we’re going to work around the clock until we get to the point of probable cause to start taking those folks off the street,” Commissioner Davis said during the press conference.

He did not elaborate on the four groups and did not provide details about joint effort with federal authorities.

Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Davis said they planned to huddle up in a war room with their close federal allies — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the FBI. The joint federal-municipal effort will work toward eliminating gaps in intelligence-sharing between the agencies and improving overall crime-fighting operations in the city, they said.

One federal official told The Washington Times on Monday that little information is available on how many agents would be supporting the war room’s efforts.

Law enforcement experts are hailing the establishment of Baltimore’s fusion center and its combining of security forces as a critical step toward reducing violence in the streets.

“Given the volatile crime situation in Baltimore, the concept of bringing together all law enforcement components in a unified effort and mission is strategically wise,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “In other words, all law enforcement dogs in the fight. We can’t have law enforcement dogs sniffing in disparate directions. We want everyone focused on the common objective, which is how to address the surge in violent crime.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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