Baltimore Policing: Six Months After Freddie Gray Events

November 12, 2015

We’re about six months out now from the Freddie Gray incident and subsequent unrest in Baltimore. There have been a few dominant narratives about crime in Baltimore since, namely that we’ve had almost 300 homicides, the supposed police “slowdown” after the protests, and that enough prescription drugs had flooded the streets to “keep Baltimore high for a year.”

So what has actually gone on in Baltimore in the weeks and months since the spring of 2015? I think there are a couple of important storylines in the data.

Precipitous drop in police productivity - on track for 10,000 less arrests this year than last.

We’re on pace to record 10,000 less arrests this year compared to last.

Monthly arrests in Baltimore for 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Total arrests for 2013 and 2014 were both on the order of 36,000 and this year, looking at total records through September, it’s looking like it will be more like 26,000. (The average daily arrests for January through September is extrapolated through the rest of the year.) There’s a substantial downtick in arrests in the last quarter of the year for both 2013 and 2014 though, so the 26,000 number could in fact be high.

Cumulative arrests in Baltimore for 2013, 2014, and 2015.

This kind of output isn’t the result of a drastic change in the size of the police force either. The number of officers for 2013, 2014, and 2015 are 2,316, 2,278, and 2,224 respectively, resulting in average annual arrests per officer going from just over 17, to just over 16, down to 12 arrests per officer this year. This means there had to have been a shift in policing tactics this year.

It was claimed that during the unrest, enough prescription drugs from pharmacies had been stolen to “keep Baltimore high for a year.” But that hasn’t shown up in the data. In fact, the proportion of controlled dangerous substance charges as a proportion of total arrests has actually continued the same downward trend from the previous two years.

Percent weekly arrests that are CDS-related, Baltimore in 2015.

Baltimore Police focused entirely on curfew violations during the week following the riots.

The total weekly arrests dropped dramatically in the weeks following the Freddie Gray unrest, something not only the data show but Commissioner Batts confirmed. But what were the dominant arrest types during the unrest?

Top 5 charges before and after Monday, April 27 unrest.

In the week immediately following the police were primarily looking for curfew violations. It wasn’t until after that week that we saw the drop in total arrests.

Much has been made of the increase in violence since the summer. Indeed first degree assaults and gun-related offenses both increased over the summer and remain elevated compared to earlier in the year.

Percent of weekly arrests that are gun-related.

All data, including BPD arrests and city employee payrolls, obtained from Open Baltimore.
Analysis conducted using Python, Pandas, and
Full analysis IPython notebook can be found here.

Baltimore Policing: Six Months After Freddie Gray Events - November 12, 2015 - Justin Elszasz