Arrests by police’s CitiWatch unit declined by 80% in decade
Arrests initiated by the small unit of Baltimore police officers assigned to monitor the city’s vast network of CitiWatch cameras have fallen about 80% this decade, according to department data.
In 2010, the CitiWatch unit made 1,282 arrests. In 2018, it made 274 arrests.
The unit’s tally of arrests has fluctuated between those years, but the trend has been downward — with the sharpest drop occurring from 2014, when the unit was responsible for 1,314 arrests, to 2015, when it was responsible for 633.
Every year since then has seen a significant decline, with 529 arrests in 2016 and 315 in 2017.
The latest declines come despite a small
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bump in CitiWatch staffing, from three officers assigned to the unit in 2015 and 2016 to four officers in 2017 and 2018.
Detective Jeremy Silbert, a police spokesman, said the arrest figures account only for arrests made directly by CitiWatch personnel, and do not account for arrests made by other operational units with the assistance of CitiWatch personnel or using CitiWatch cameras.
Silbert also said gun arrests by CitiWatch employees have increased over the same time period, from seven in 2010 to 22 in 2018. Data show the number of gun arrests has swung widely from year to year — from 17 in 2011 to 31 in 2012, and from 13 in 2014 to 25 in 2015.
The city has 744 cameras across the city. On average, about 8% are out of service at any given time, police have said.
The declines in CitiWatch arrests were part of a broader decline in overall arrests by the department during the same time period.
In 2010, there were more than 60,000 arrests across the city. In 2015, there were closer to 30,000. Silbert said there were fewer than 22,000 in 2018.
The dramatic decline in arrests reflects changes in policing policy in the city.
In the early 2000s, under then-Mayor Martin O’Malley, there were more than 100,000 arrests per year in the city — the result of a concerted effort to drive down violent crime in part by targeting minor offenses. The ACLU of Maryland sued the city over its tactics, and the city relented, leading to steady declines in arrests.
In more recent years, police have said the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana also has cut down on the total number of arrests made in the city.
A Baltimore police sergeant observes multiple street cameras at CitiWatch headquarters in 2012.
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