Street Life at Night as Seen by Baltimore’s Police Officers

‘I’m going to light this [expletive] up,’ an unstable and inebriated 25-year-old black male shouts at a BPD officer.
Street Life at Night as Seen by Baltimore’s Police Officers
Baltimore police respond to a shooting at Morgan State University in Balitmore on Oct. 3, 2023. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Jackson Richman

It is an unusually quiet night on the streets of Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood—but one that still has its share of surprises and shocks, including an attempted robbery of a 71-year-old lady.

Midnight on April 8 has long gone and outside The Point In Fells bar an unstable and inebriated 25-year-old black male threatens a Baltimore Police officer.

“I’m going to light this [expletive] up,” he shouts.

An unsurprised police officer says: “That’s Baltimore” as at one moment it can be peaceful and the next it is not, suggesting that not much has changed regarding public safety in the city.

Nonetheless, the volatile situation occurred a moment after all seemed calm on a ride-along The Epoch Times did with the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) in a city plagued by crime.

The cop, also a black male, stated that this was a “terroristic threat.”

The incident, where people had to restrain and calm down the offender, unfolded at the clean and attractive brick-road area lined with bars and shops but did not result in the man getting arrested at the scene.

However, that is still an option as the police officer could still pursue a warrant within a few days of the incident.

After all, there is a sign in the precinct of BPD’s Central Division that reads: “We’re not just report takers … we’re the police.”

Those in uniform do have some discretion when it comes to whether to arrest individuals, though certain incidents, such as domestic violence, must result in apprehension.

According to police, the previous week there were two homicides in the city; 115 aggravated assaults; 58 robberies; four carjackings; nine shootings; 110 auto thefts; 62 burglaries; 137 larcenies; and 50 auto larcenies.

On April 8, like every night, the overnight eight-and-a-half-hour shift starts with a 10:45 p.m., roll call led by a tall and bald sergeant, who points out new cases of aggravated assault, carjackings and other incidents.

Most of the officers on shift are black males, who are joined by a few female officers.

Inside the squad car it is a techie’s heaven. The vehicle is equipped with a computer with unique complex software including a program to log in incidents and stops.

Initially, it is uncertain whether the night will be hectic or relatively relaxed. A major hope of police officers is to make it home safely.

The first call is to provide backup for a female officer who responded to a call of suspicious activity at an apartment on a mostly-quiet East Baltimore Ave. Inside, the floor of the entrance was littered with mail. The rooms have no furniture and it appears that no one lives in the townhouse.

The police officers cautiously walk up the stairs, only using flashlights and keeping their guns in their holsters, identifying themselves but there is no response. The tension is real and is a taste of what the police go through when called to a location where something could pop off.

About a half-hour later, driving around Fells Point where music blasts from cars, there is an intoxicated distraught white female on a sidewalk who cannot walk on her own two feet. She constantly falls down and is being helped by a tall black gentleman.

Looking stressed, she laments that her mother thinks her autistic brother is normal. She also expresses frustration about her brother being unable to make a PB&J sandwich despite her showing him multiple times.

One of the people on the scene expresses sympathy with her as someone who has a brother with autism.

The woman gently takes that person’s hands and asks if she knew family members of hers that she said were dead. When kindly told “no,” she gets very angry—an indication that one can only do so much to help those who are inebriated.

While this moment is not a police incident, it demonstrates that the police are more than just crime fighters: they also seek to care about the well-being of citizens.

Later, driving on one of the main roads at 1:40 a.m., the radio alerts the unit to an alleged threat outside The Point In Fells—causing the police officer to turn around, the car’s lights flashing and sirens sounding. It is like an action movie, but one that can have very real consequences.

After responding to the incident, where the father calms his son who had allegedly threatened the police, many of the officers on shift went to an area on East Baltimore Ave., with bodegas and strip clubs. There was reportedly a disturbance. The shady scene is relatively calm now, but with people loitering everywhere in groups.

At about 2:20 a.m., the police get a call of a suspicious woman in a brick house on Lancaster Street. It came to nothing—and may only have been a strange misunderstanding when a resident could not get in touch with her roommate.

Between that incident and 4 a.m., there is calm that is broken by suspicious activity at an apartment complex under construction. There is no way for someone to get into the building so the officers write it off as a non-event.

Action kicks off at 6:11 a.m., with a call of an attempted robbery of an elderly female.

The victim, a friendly 71-year-old who lives at a nursing home down the street.

Disturbing footage of the incident from a residential camera is turned over to the police. An agent who works white-collar crimes in the FBI’s Baltimore field office and lives across the street from where the incident happened appears on the scene but is too late to intervene.

The footage shows two cars stopping with three people getting out of the first vehicle. Two of them appear to be trying to rob the woman and one looks to strike her in the face.

Coming to the lady’s rescue, a D.C. Public Schools teacher said she went outside her house to scream at the suspects, who appeared to be juveniles, to leave the woman alone. The disheartening video of the incident, which lasts around 20 seconds, shows the suspects getting back in the front car and the vehicles driving away.

The victim told the police that she was carrying a cup of coffee, which she got at a convenience store, and threw it at her assailants. She said they had hit her in the face after they got out of their car.

They reportedly said: “Give us your money, all your money, give us what you got.”

The elderly woman was OK and declined medical treatment.

Subsequently, there were two calls on the police scanner of similar incidents with similar descriptions of the suspects.

The ride-along concluded at 7:15 a.m.

Short-Staffed Despite Crime Plague

In 2024, according to the Baltimore Police, there have been 11,788 crimes overall. This includes 61 homicides; 1,100 robberies; 150 carjackings; 152 shootings; 1,800 aggravated assaults; 2,500 auto thefts; 1,000 burglaries; 3,400 larcenies; and 1,300 auto larcenies.
“In May 2020, the Baltimore Police Department began a significant upgrade to its new Records Management Systems to allow the department to transition from a paper-based system into a fully digital reporting environment,” states the BPD’s website.

“As a result of this massive transformation, we have experienced some complexities in properly and accurately translating the data from the new records system into the traditional Open Data Baltimore system.”

According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), there have been between New Year’s Day and March 31—the most-recently available statistics—3,490 larceny/theft offenses; 2,628 assaults; 1,920 incidents of destroying, vandalizing, damaging of property; 884 vehicular thefts; and five homicides.

The reason for the discrepancy is unclear. NIBRS statistics come from the BPD.

BPD, which has 3,100 employees, has been severely short-staffed despite the city’s crime rate.

Officers have been working overtime by doing double shifts and say there has been a lack of quality incentives such as paying off student loans.

The Epoch Times was told by an officer that the department does not have its priorities straight.

The officer gave as an example the BPD putting out several billboards to recruit officers even though it does not need to be advertised that the police department exists.

The BPD Central Division only got two members of the newly-graduated class.

Despite these deficiencies and the state of crime in Baltimore, there is good camaraderie in the division, according to a police officer.

Officers chat with each other like friends at scenes when there is calm. There is even joking around at the precinct with the sergeant cracking countless jokes.

After all, being a police officer is like any other job in that there are colleagues and customers, in this case, the citizenry.

Additionally, Baltimore has come under fire for what critics say is being soft on crime.

One instance, according to a police officer, was a DUI suspect who got all but 10 days of a one-year jail sentence suspended.

Statistically, Wednesday is usually the craziest as that is often the day people get their paycheck from work, creating a prime opportunity for robberies, according to a police officer.

The moments during the ride-along highlight that someone  just minding their own business can become a victim very quickly.

The same goes for businesses operating without trouble until an armed robber comes in, or a person goes to take their car to work only to find it stolen or its tires slashed.

At least the officers on duty made it home safely.

Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.