Baltimore police have made more arrests than they did the year prior for the first time since at least 2010, ending a consistent trend of year-over-year declines that saw arrests drop by 75%, a Baltimore Banner analysis of police databases shows.
Police attribute the first increase in more than decade to more warrant arrests. Limitations in the public database of the data make it difficult for The Banner to pin down the exact number of warrant arrests, but counts provided by a police spokeswoman show warrant arrests are up about 25% year over year.
Police said the emphasis on warrant arrests came over the summer as part of the department’s deployment plan and initiatives with law enforcement partners, including the U.S. Marshalls Service.
In analyzing the data, David Jaros, a criminal law professor at the University of Baltimore, urged caution on drawing conclusions about whether the slight change in arrest rates was the result of improved policing in Baltimore.
“As attractive as this idea of data-based and data-informed policing is, these numbers are often not a good read on whether we are improving community safety in Baltimore,” Jaros said.
Though warrant arrests can be important, he added, the type of warrant could make a huge difference. For instance, a warrant arrest on a minor trespassing charge would have a negligible impact on public safety, Jaros said, while a warrant arrest for a serial violent offender would be an important achievement.
“The inability to distinguish between the quality of the arrests makes this really weak data to point to either as evidence of improvement or failure,” Jaros said.
At a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday morning, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said that officers have not been making as many arrests on minor offenses due to the fact that they would not be prosecuted under outgoing State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
“For arrests to be up, not having made arrests on minor offenses, it means our officers are really focusing on the more violent offenses,” Harrison said. “That means our focus is in the right place.”
Data provided by police show the increase in served warrants was driven more by misdemeanor warrants than felony warrants. Felony warrants were up 19% in 2022 compared to 2021. Misdemeanors were up 35%.
Heather Warnken, executive director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the University of Baltimore, told The Banner that she is more interested in other stats at the press conference.
“I think it’s worth saying, and repeating, that we will not arrest or incarcerate our way out of the epidemic of gun violence,” Warnken said. “We risk making it worse by continuing to over-rely on either of those things. I’m interested more in the press conferences and real stats about how many more residents have actually gotten the services we know address and reduce violence in the long term.”
Arrest data reported to state police each year suggests this may be the first increase in Baltimore arrests in 17 years. Data reported as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program shows Baltimore Police arrests have dropped in every year since peaking in 2005.
Investigative Reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this report.