Can Baltimore’s drug and gang violence be put on hold for a few months while the city copes with the expected influx of coronavirus cases? That’s what Mayor Jack Young pleaded for on Tuesday during a press conference announcing five cases of COVID-19 in the city.
Young warned that cases are expected to rise, given the fact that all five cases are believed to have taken place through community transmission, and urged the city’s criminals to stop shooting each other.
Young said hospital beds are needed to treat positive COVID-19 patients and not for senseless violence. Seven people were shot Tuesday night in the Madison Park neighborhood, as Baltimore reported its fifth positive coronavirus case Wednesday.
“I want to reiterate how completely unacceptable the level of violence is that we have seen recently,” Young said. “We will not stand for mass shootings and an increase in crime.”
“For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Young implored. “We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.”
He urged people to put down their guns because “we cannot clog up our hospitals and their beds with people that are being shot senselessly because we’re going to need those beds for people infected with the coronavirus. And it could be your mother, your grandmother or one of your relatives. So take that into consideration.”
The fact that the mayor is appealing to the altruism of gang members and drug dealers may give you a sense of how concerned city officials are about the healthcare system’s ability to withstand the number of patients in a worst-case scenario (and perhaps even a best-case scenario as well). These are the same people who are destroying lives and communities every day in Baltimore, but the mayor expects that they’re going to stop shooting each other for the common good?
To be fair, the mayor did say that if criminals don’t stop shooting, there will be a law enforcement response. I think I would have spent a little more time on what that law enforcement response will look like, including reminding criminals that if they are caught, they’ll likely be spending some time in a jail facility where the coronavirus is spread more easily. It’s not just grandma they should be worried about, it’s themselves.
Of course many of these guys feel young and invincible. Others may feel like it doesn’t matter if they or loved ones catch the coronavirus, because they’ve already lost loved ones to Baltimore’s violence and have become fatalistic about the future. There are all kinds of reasons why some Americans aren’t adjusting their behavior despite the guidance from the CDC and public officials from the president on down.
I’d love to believe that the mayor’s statements will have an impact, but if the message is truly going to sink in, it probably needs to come from the “violence interrupters” that are already engaging with this population in several high-crime neighborhoods. Use them to get the word out about the need to stay indoors and keep away from one another just as they’re being used now to try to convince the city’s gang population to quit shooting at each other.
Honestly, even then I wouldn’t expect miraculous results, but it’s worth a try. At the moment Baltimore has a chance to keep the spread of the disease at least somewhat in check and the hospital system from being overwhelmed. I just wouldn’t expect a lot of help from the city’s violent criminals.