Police Commissioner Richard Worley knows the statistics show Baltimore has become much safer over the past two years. But he said he’s also experiencing it as a downtown resident, from the two-room suite in a hotel where he says he has resided since the fall.

“I live downtown. I see people when I’m out without my security team, all the time and just walking around. Most people have no idea who I am. I listen to the conversations,” Worley said in an interview. “People are flocking to the city.”

Worley, whose media appearances have been limited this year, spoke to The Banner last week to emphasize the steep declines in the first half of the year in homicides and nonfatal shootings. The first half of 2024 saw 89 killings, the second-fewest homicides on record since 1970, and a more than 50% decline from two years ago when the first half of that year was the worst on record with 179 killings. Each six-month period since the first half of 2020 has seen a significant decline.

“We’re going down [in homicides] at a quicker pace than just about anybody in the country,” Worley said. “I’m not naïve to be overconfident. We’re only halfway through the year. I’m always cautiously optimistic, but I’ve got confidence in my men and women that go out there every day.”

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With the mass shooting in Brooklyn Homes in the rearview, nonfatal shootings are also down 36% from this time last year. Total violent and property crimes are also down, though by lesser margins.

Worley recently passed one year at the helm of the department, after Police Commissioner Michael Harrison stepped down. Worley said his knowledge of the department as a 26-year veteran allowed him to make tweaks to the organizational structure and supervisors that he believes have been paying dividends.

“I know a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of a lot of our people,” he said. “I just kind of put supervision in the right places a little bit and moved people to their strong points.”

He is also quick to credit efforts from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office.

The homicide clearance rate for the year is at about 71%, which would be the highest since 2003 if it holds. In recent years, the percentage of cases closed has sunk to 40% or lower.

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This year’s figure is perhaps misleading — the unit is closing about the same number of cases as previous years, but the denominator of total cases is significantly fewer. Still, Worley says, the department has added civilian investigators who have helped to free detectives from certain cases and tasks.

The department also pointed to proactive metrics that show officers are more engaged. Arrests, which have plunged almost every year for the past two decades, are up 13% this year, while other measures such as foot and bike patrol are up 66% despite the department being short hundreds of budgeted officers.

Worley said that sharp increase is in part because of emphasizing such patrols as a priority but in other cases simply nudging officers to better document what they’re doing.

That includes writing more citations for low-level offenses. State’s Attorney Ivan Bates came out against Mayor Brandon Scott in the Democratic primary election, supporting his challenger Sheila Dixon in part because he said officers were not supporting his citation docket aimed at addressing quality-of-life crimes. Worley said the department has been working to better train officers on writing citations and that the majority of citations written were being rejected through an internal auditing process.

“This month is the first month we’ve actually had it where 65% of our citations were accepted,” Worley said.

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Worley, who was born, grew up in and has lived in the city most of his career, had been living in Anne Arundel County and was dogged by questions about whether he would move back after being named commissioner. In October, the department issued a terse statement saying Worley had established residency without elaborating.

His ethics disclosure submitted this spring listed his residence as a downtown hotel, and Worley confirmed that’s where he has been living as he and his wife attempt to purchase a home in the city. His contract calls for him to receive a $1,000 per month housing stipend for six months or until his home is sold, which hasn’t happened, but a police department spokeswoman said he is not currently receiving the stipend.

Worley said they’ve attempted to purchase two city homes, with both deals falling through. Worley said he got a “great deal” on the hotel room and with his busy schedule barely spends time there anyway.

“I eat and sleep there, and that’s about it,” Worley said. “I’ve gotten everything I’ve needed.”