Much of the new internal investigation into the city’s response to the Brooklyn Day mass shooting zeroes in on an ill-advised, hands-off approach by police in the lead-up to the annual neighborhood block party.

But the 173-page report released Wednesday also looks at how the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City responded to the shooting on July 2, which left two dead and another 28 wounded. It includes some new details on the presence of the city’s flagship violence intervention group, Safe Streets, and highlights policy changes aimed at better preparing city agencies for large events that could erupt into violence.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

Revised Safe Streets policy aimed at flagging potential for ‘mass harm or destruction’

Among the biggest questions surrounding the Brooklyn Day shooting is how city officials were caught off-guard by the annual neighborhood celebration. The report documents numerous points that should have clued police into the size and potential dangers of the un-permitted event, which drew close to 1,000 people to the South Baltimore housing project. But it also outlines a new reporting policy for violence intervention workers that might have alerted City Hall to the event before it started.

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It was already known that some with Safe Streets were aware of the Brooklyn Day ahead of time and left the event after their shifts ended, before the shooting started. At least a month before the shooting, staffers with the Brooklyn chapter of Safe Streets learned of tentative plans for Brooklyn Day. An exact date wasn’t known at the time, but the report goes on to note that Safe Streets staff pinpointed the date of the party when flyers were distributed “at the end of June.”

Safe Streets workers didn’t see any signs that Brooklyn Day could turn violent, according to the report, but there are also no documented protocols dictating when the violence intervention team should relay knowledge of such an event to City Hall. A proposed policy outlined in the report would require Safe Streets workers to share red flags that indicate potential for “mass harm or destruction” with their contacts at the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, which helps oversee the program. Those warning signs could include suspicion of multiple people with weapons being in the same location; an event planned in a Safe Streets zone that’s expected to draw upward of 50 people; an event bringing together two or more people who have known issues with each other; or an event with a size that exceeds the capacity of the Safe Street team.

The Brooklyn chapter of Safe Streets is staffed by five people, four of whom are longtime residents from the Brooklyn community, the report notes. Three positions, however, are currently vacant, including the Brooklyn chapter’s site supervisor, according to the report.

A press conference is held in front of Baltimore’s Peace Mobile near Glade Court in Brooklyn after a shooting on Sunday, July 2, 2023. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

Where was Safe Streets when the shooting began?

The report offers some new detail on the whereabouts and activity of Brooklyn Safe Streets staff in the hours leading up to the mass shooting.

The shooting took place in one of Safe Streets’ “catchment” zones — covering about 2.6 square miles in Brooklyn — leading to heightened scrutiny of the group in the wake of the incident. Some members of City Council have criticized the group and the mayor’s public safety office for not identifying the event ahead of time.

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According to a timeline laid out in the report, Safe Streets staffers roamed the crowd the night of the party, separating large groups and keeping tabs on the situation. Between 8-10:30 p.m., the staffers mediated five different conflicts, resolving each without any turning to gun violence. In two incidents, Safe Streets workers persuaded attendees known or believed to have guns to “put them away and be safe,” according to the report. It notes that the interventionists mediate conflicts involving weapons on a daily basis.

Shifts ended for the Safe Streets staffers at 11 p.m., and the report states that all left the event between 11 p.m. and 12:20 a.m. — not long before shooting broke out around 12:35 a.m.

Upon learning about the shooting between 12:35-1 a.m., Safe Streets staffers attempted to contact their site director. Two staff members returned to the scene, while another went to the hospital, where some of the victims being treated were family members and loved ones of the staff, per the report.

As Safe Streets has drawn scrutiny over its response to the Brooklyn Day shooting, some public safety officials have defended the program, arguing that criticism of the group misunderstands how violence intervention is supposed to work. Suggestions that staffers should have reported more information to law enforcement run counter to the community trust that is core to the violence intervention model, Shantay Jackson, the former director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, argued recently in a Baltimore Sun op-ed.

Among its conclusions in the report, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement points to a need for better public communication about the role of Safe Streets.

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Housing authority in the dark until hours after shooting

In the wake of the mass shooting, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has said it was unaware of the gathering at one of its properties until after the violence broke out. The federally managed public housing agency has maintained that the party was an “unsanctioned” event, and the new report states that no calls came into a resident emergency line on the night of the shooting raising concerns about the gathering. It was not until the early hours of the morning, at 3 a.m., that the agency learned of the event when it was alerted by police.

While the housing authority has insisted that residents should have notified them of the Brooklyn Day party in advance — even adopting a policy that would penalize tenants who host un-permitted events, as WYPR reported last month — some city officials have faulted the agency for not knowing more. “The fact that HABC staff was unaware of an hours-long event on their property with hundreds of people until early the next morning suggests gaps in communication that must be addressed going forward,” Councilman Mark Conway said in a statement Wednesday morning responding to the report.

The report also notes the housing authority has moved ahead with plans to deploy a third-party security force at each of its Baltimore developments. The initiative stems from a pilot the housing authority launched in 2022 to provide security services at Poe Homes, Douglass Homes, Westport Homes and Latrobe Homes. That program isn’t slated to finish until the end of this year, but the results have justified extending it to the rest of its properties, the report states.

The housing authority began formally looking for contractors in June, before the Brooklyn Homes shooting, and awarded contracts in July. Security began staffing Brooklyn Homes at the start of August, running two shifts that cover noon to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

This story has been updated to reflect that Safe Streets workers intervened in two incidents at Brooklyn Day involving attendees known or believed to have guns.

Adam Willis covers city government for The Banner, including the impacts of the large COVID-19 stimulus package that Baltimore received from the federal government.

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