By Kevin Rector The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — In crunching data on homicides and non-fatal shootings in recent months, Baltimore police officials saw a trend: Whenever a homicide or non-fatal shooting occurs in the city, there is a “high likelihood” that another will occur within hours.

In response to those findings, police have introduced a new set of tactical responses aimed at interrupting such clustered violence before it can spread further, according to a two-page outline of the plan being distributed to officers and supervisors.

“We know historically that Baltimore has had a problem with retaliatory violence and contagious violence. So the question becomes, what are we doing to get in front of it? How do we stop it?” said Capt. Jarron Jackson, a police spokesman. “It’s using statistical data to put our officers in the right place at the right time to prevent those additional acts of violence.”

The plan, which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun, is similar to other “tactical” responses the department has used in the past in that, during and immediately following spikes in violence, it prioritizes crime prevention efforts in troubled areas over responses to reports of minor, non-violent crimes.

But the new plan has added some specifics about when and how such prioritization occurs.

Whenever two homicides or shootings occur within a window of several hours, it’s called a “Grouping 2,” or “G2” — which is broadcast citywide.

Officials and dispatchers will then advise patrols units “to check local hot spots & businesses,” “maintain high visibility along the major corridors,” and “conduct proactive enforcement & engagement,” according to the plan.

Whenever a third homicide or shooting occurs within the same window of time, a “Grouping 3” or “G3” designation will be broadcast.

Officials will then advise all districts to go into a “tactical alert” mode for the next 20 minutes, during which lower-priority calls — for non-violent and minor crimes — are held. That means they are monitored by dispatch and supervisors, but not necessarily responded to by officers.

The department asked The Baltimore Sun not disclose the exact length of time within which incidents are considered clustered, so shooters can’t use that information to their advantage.

Police have long lamented the retaliatory cycles of violence that they say spiral out from individual acts into threads of shootings and killings, which involve violent rivals in the drug trade but also their friends and loved ones.

In announcing the new tactical approach to officers, police officials cited data from October and November that showed the prevalence of clustered violence.

In October, the document said, 73 of 98 homicide and non-fatal shooting incidents — or nearly 75 percent — fit into clusters. In November, 37 of 57 incidents — or about 64 percent — fit into clusters.

The police department and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice have said they are working to increase their use of data to conduct smart crime analysis, and the city also is working closely with Sean Malinowski, a deputy police chief in Los Angeles and an expert in predictive policing, to try to anticipate and prevent violence.

However, Jackson said the new tactical plan was “home grown” within the department under new Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, and not from Malinowski or the mayor’s office.

©2018 The Baltimore Sun

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