Feds answer Baltimore's SOS on violence

Story highlights

  • 5 federal agencies to embed agents with Baltimore homicide detectives
  • Baltimore has had 191 homicides so far in 2015

(CNN)Baltimore is turning to the federal government for help in stemming a dramatic uptick in violence over the last several months.

Ten federal agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Marshals Service will embed with the police department's homicide unit for the next 60 days, city leaders announced Monday.
They join the 20 ATF agents who were sent in last week to form BFED, a joint task force that "is the next step of an all-hands-on-deck movement addressing violence in our community," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Monday.

    'Innovative ways to bring charges'

    The loaning of law enforcement officials is a common practice between local police departments and federal agencies for a particular investigation, but what makes this move unusual is that this isn't for any one specific investigation, and the loaning is typically done the other way around -- local detectives are usually plucked to assist a federal investigation, according to interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
    The task force's federal reach will enable the city to "come up with innovative ways to bring charges against people harming the community," that they otherwise couldn't, said Davis.
    "Our federal law enforcement partners bring tools to bear that we necessarily don't enjoy, federal assets and federal techniques that will help us close more homicide cases," he said.
    All hands -- or at least a lot of them -- were on deck at Monday's press conference announcing BFED.
    "We will do all in our power to make sure the resources are here to make this endeavor a success," said Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, speaking on behalf of the state's congressional delegation.
    "There have been 191 killings (this year) in the city of Baltimore, that is completely unacceptable," said Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. "The police can't do it alone. The state's attorney can't do it alone."

    Record-breaking violence

    The violence in Baltimore has been record-breaking so far this year.
    The 42 homicides in May made it the city's deadliest month since 1972, but that record, which stood for more than 40 years, was surpassed just two months later by 45 slayings in July.
    Three days into August have brought three more homicides.
    Violence is not uncommon in Baltimore. The city of more than 600,000 "has always had a very high homicide rate for many years," city council member Carl Stokes told CNN.
    But 2015 has been anything but ordinary.
    The city has seemingly been in a perpetual state of turmoil ever since the events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died while in police custody in April.
    The demonstrations that followed devolved into riots, plunging the city into a violent, chaotic powder keg that proved overwhelming for the local police department.
    By the time the dust settled, Mosby had charged six Baltimore Police officers in Gray's death, Rawlings-Blake had fired the police commissioner, and the city itself, like Ferguson, Missouri before it, had become a symbol of the mistrust and enmity many minority communities feel toward the police department.
    One by one, Baltimore's officials appealed to the community for their help in the effort.
    "Community we need you to step forward; we cannot do this alone," said Mosby. "Everyone has a stake in the safety and outcome of our communities."
    "If we are not working together, the community and the police together, none of us will see the safe city that we want to see," said Rawlings-Blake.
    "I said it before and I'll say it again. The police need the community and the community needs the police," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat. "The only people who are doing pretty good now are the morticians."