The director of Baltimore’s public safety office will step down this summer, marking the latest in a string of high-profile departures from Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration.

Shantay Jackson, who has led the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, or MONSE, since the start of the Scott administration in December 2020, announced her departure Thursday in a joint statement alongside the mayor. Her last day will be June 30.

Jackson is exiting an agency that has championed one of the mayor’s top priorities: fostering a public health approach to violent crime. Investments in the strategy aim to lift people out of cycles of violence through offering supports and social services and leaning less on punitive tactics like law enforcement.

“It is with mixed emotions that I have chosen to resign as the executive director of MONSE as I enter into my next chapter of service to our City,” Jackson said in the statement. “I have full faith that the team we have built over the past two-and-a-half years will be able to carry on this transformational work and deliver on our commitments to building a safer Baltimore.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The joint statement did not provide a reason for Jackson’s departure or indicate who will replace her. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office declined to answer questions about the timing or reasons for Jackson’s exit, citing “personnel matters.”

On Twitter, Jackson pushed back on the idea she was being forced out of her post and expressed excitement about her next steps and those of the public safety team. “So that there is NO question: I was NOT asked or told to resign,” she wrote. “NOBODY’S fabrications informed MY decision.”

Jackson’s departure comes as Scott has drawn renewed criticism in and out of City Hall over high turnover in his administration, the topic of a City Council hearing earlier this month. That hearing came a day after the mayor asked his chief of staff and top communications official to step down. Among other high-profile departures, Baltimore has lost its first city administrator, the mayor’s first chief of staff, and the directors of broadband and workforce development offices. Public works director Jason Mitchell has also announced plans to resign in June.

A close friend to Scott, Jackson has been the face of the administration’s efforts to build a robust network of providers and organizations in Baltimore dedicated to alternative solutions to violent crime. The mayor has also invested heavily in the mission of her office. In October of 2020, he committed $50 million of the city’s federal pandemic aid to Jackson’s office, which has gone towards expanding her team and funding a wide array of nonprofits and public safety initiatives.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Among high priority roles for the administration, MONSE oversees the city’s flagship violence intervention program, Safe Streets, and has been the coordinating agency for the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, a revived approach to curbing gun violence that showed promise during a pilot run in the Western police district last year. The Scott administration announced plans late last year to aggressively scale the strategy from the Western district across the city’s nine police districts in under two years.

But MONSE’s large, $50 million infusion — as well as its focus on systemic drivers of violent crime — have sometimes prompted frustration and impatience from members of the City Council.

Ahead of budget hearings a year ago, Councilman Eric Costello sent letter laying out a series of demands for Jackson’s office, including details on how it planned to spend its $50 million and status updates on the Group Violence Reduction Strategy pilot. While Jackson and her team may be focused on long-term solutions to reducing violence, Costello wrote, residents across the city were concerned about crime and “need immediate action along with those longer term solutions you are working to establish.”

Councilman Mark Conway, chair of the council’s Public Safety and Government Operations committee, said he learned of Jackson’s resignation through Twitter and got a call from the administration a few hours later.

The city has seen progress on some fronts in its public safety campaign over the last year, but other trends, like spiking teen gun violence, are unnerving, the North Baltimore councilman said. He also expressed some concern about the pace that MONSE has so far been able to invest its federal dollars. Time will tell if the office has targeted its funding in smart ways, he said, “But first we’ve got to spend it.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Prior to her role for the city, Jackson spent close to two decades in the private sector, including in a leadership role on the Global Solutions & Technology team at T. Rowe Price. In the wake of protests over the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, Jackson left her corporate job to lead the Baltimore Community Mediation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to resolving violent conflicts. She has also worked as a community engagement liaison for the Baltimore Police Department’s federal consent decree.

Jackson received a salary of $202,878 in the 2022 fiscal year, the latest information available in a database of city salaries.

Scott thanked Jackson for her work in his statement, calling her “an integral part” of the administration’s work to develop public health approaches to violent crime. “Together, we have built a strong team at MONSE that is well positioned to continue to move this work forward to improve public safety outcomes for all of Baltimore,” the mayor said.

State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, meanwhile, commended Jackson in a statement for laying the groundwork for a citywide expansion of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy. “In my short tenure, her partnership has been essential to our collaboration efforts,” he said.

Jackson’s office had divided its $50 million in federal stimulus across a broad range of priorities, including social service provisions of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, a recent award for Safe Streets, a large jobs program for incarcerated people transitioning out of prison, and grants for dozens of different anti-violence nonprofits.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

As of the end of March, only a small share of the agency’s federal allotment had been spent: just over $3 million, according to a recent report to City Council. Baltimore has until the end of 2026 to spend its federal windfall.

The influx of pandemic aid has also helped to substantially expand Jackson’s office, which launched at the beginning of the Scott administration. The public safety office now boasts a staff of 40 people, many paid on salaries out of the city’s one-time federal infusion.

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.

More From The Banner