Where the hell is Sam Abed?

I usually don’t waste pity on elected officials or on police commissioners earning $205 K per year, especially if I believe that they are, in part, the architect of their own sorrows. In the case of juvenile crime in the City of Baltimore, however, I am going to make a limited exception for Mayor Catherine Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. I feel sorry that they appear to be out there all alone in dealing with the current spike in violent juvenile crime.

A little over six months ago, I noted in a post my concern that a reprise of the wave of juvenile violence that swept the Inner Harbor for several months in 2012 could send the tourism industry in the city into a death spiral. In the past several weeks, it appears that my worst fears are being realized, but the spike in violent juvenile crime in the city is not limited to the Inner Harbor. You can’t pick up the newspaper or turn on the television without reading or hearing about another incident somewhere in the city.

“Out of control” is a phrase you hear repeatedly. Assaults, carjackings, and other violent crimes committed by juveniles not only are turning away potential visitors to the city, they are making residents of some neighborhoods afraid to leave their homes.

The Mayor and Police Commissioner are under increasing pressure to do something about the crisis. I have one question, however, and it is not directed to the Mayor or Police Commissioner.

My question is: Where the hell is Sam Abed, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services?

It would be nice to hear what the State’s experts on juvenile justice have to say about possible solutions to the problem, and how they can help the police in the city. Do they have any thoughts on what policies may need to be changed? Do they believe that the youthful offenders who commit these crimes are amenable to treatment within the juvenile system? Just say something so that we know you are there and care about what is happening in Baltimore.

One of the first rules that you learn in government is that, paraphrasing President John F. Kennedy’s observation about the invasion of the Bay of Pigs, success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. In my opinion, Governor Larry Hogan and the members of his cabinet are engaging in a form of duck and cover: They are trying to avoid the political fall-out from the disaster unfolding in the city.

Governor Hogan does not want his face or name, or the face or name of one of his cabinet secretaries, associated with what is happening in Baltimore. If the governor or Secretary Abed look like they are trying to help solve the problem, people might hold them accountable for the results. “It’s not my problem, and it’s not my fault” appears to be the mantra.

The State needs to jump in with both feet, however, and it needs to do so quickly. And I am not, of course, talking only about juvenile crime. In 2012, there were 217 murders in the city. This year there already are 303.

There are political risks for the governor if commits money and other resources to the city and is unable to achieve results; it may come as a surprise to some in Baltimore that there are plenty of folks in Maryland outside of the city who believe that spending more money on the city is like pouring it down a rat hole. On the other hand, the risks to the city are enormous if the Governor does not step up his efforts to help it.

November 9, 2017

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