Instead of chasing suspected drug dealers, officers are focusing on people with violent backgrounds. Since Police Commissioner Fredrick H. Bealefeld III took over in 2007, homicides dipped from 282 to 234 in just a year. In 2008, nonfatal shootings dropped from 582 to 450 last year. Also in 2009, the department arrested 4,000 less people than in the previous year. Last year's arrest total was down nearly 20,000 from 2002 - when Baltimore was at the height of the zero tolerance strategy. With 64 slayings through May 11, the city is on pace for 178 homicides this year, the lowest total since 1977.
"Im not trying to win the drug war," Bealefeld said. "I'm out to win the war on violence and deal effectively with violence."
David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, places Bealefeld among a handful of police chiefs willing to acknowledge that the strategies their departments used for decades were ineffective, even counter productive. He's confident that the big drops under Bealefeld are no coincidence.
Kennedy said, "It's common sense to focus on a small number of dangerous people instead of rounding up people for low-level nonsense."
It's a lot like a scene out of President Obama's favorite show, The Wire.