By Carrie Wells
The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — As a recent spike in violence claimed the life of a 3-year-old girl and threatened to set back Baltimore's progress in fighting crime, city police announced increased patrols and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged residents to come forward with information.
Though homicides and shootings have declined this year by double-digit percentages, more than 35 people were shot between Friday and the week prior. The victims included McKenzie Elliott, 3, who was on a porch in the 3600 block of Old York Road Friday afternoon when she was struck by a stray bullet in a gun battle nearby. Her death prompted city officials to pledge a renewed focus on crime.
Rawlings-Blake called the shooting "the most heinous act of cowardice that someone could do on a city street" and said she felt "shock and disgust" when she heard the news.
"We're not going to let this recent spike be a setback in those efforts," she said Saturday. "Losing that beautiful little girl is a motivation for us to say, 'enough us enough.' We're going to marshal all our resources to fight the notion that this is the norm for Baltimore."
Baltimore police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said officers were being pulled off desk jobs and on to the street, with commanders in the field supervising stepped up patrols in areas that have seen recent violence. Police are also looking for potential links between the episodes and attempting to target the repeat violent offenders whom police blame for most of the city's serious crime. Kowalczyk declined to be more specific about the department's strategy, saying officials did not want criminals to be able to adapt to the changes.
Two others were also injured in the shooting in Waverly — a 21-year-old woman who had a graze wounds and a man who turned up at a hospital with a gunshot wound. Police described him as a "person of interest." Investigators believe they also recovered a car that was involved.
Kowalczyk said the investigation is still very active.
"We do have a person of interest but that doesn't mean we've stopped investigative measures," he said. "We're going to follow every lead as it comes in."
Four men were shot in separate incidents Friday after the shooting in Waverly: in the 3300 block of Elizabeth Ave. around 8 p.m.; in the 600 block of N. Monroe St. around 9:45 p.m.; in the 5600 block of Loch Raven Blvd. around 9:45 p.m.; and in the 1200 block of Kitmore Road. around 10:40 p.m. All those victims were expected to survive their injuries, and police did not provide more details on potential motives or suspects in the attacks.
Rawlings-Blake planned to personally canvas the Waverly area Saturday afternoon and hand out fliers asking residents to come forward with information about the shooting. Residents can call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP. Rawlings-Blake also planned a press conference for 4 p.m. at the scene of the shooting with police and neighborhood leaders.
"Every spike of violence that we've seen has a different cause, and under the cause we know the offenders and they're the repeat violent offenders that we continue to target," she said. "We're doing everything we can to clamp down on them."
The mayor said the police department works closely with the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office to ensure the safety of those who report information about crime to police.
Rawlings-Blake said she was praying for the family of McKenzie Elliott and planned to reach out to them personally on Saturday.
"Please help us," she said, addressing city residents. "It's going to take all of us. I can't do it alone, the police commissioner can't do it alone, the police officers can't do it alone. We have to come together."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 The Baltimore Sun