Baltimore’s mayor has called on the city’s inhabitants to refrain from killing one another for the time being, asking them not to “clog up” hospital beds as the coronavirus pandemic spreads far and wide across the country.
“I want to reiterate how completely unacceptable the level of violence is that we have seen recently,” Mayor Jack Young said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding, “For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it. We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.”
We cannot clog up our hospitals, or their beds, with people who are being shot senselessly, because we’re going to need those beds for people who might be infected with the coronavirus.
The call to action – or inaction, rather – came after a police-involved shooting in Baltimore’s Madison Park neighborhood on Tuesday night that put at least seven people in the hospital, all believed to be in stable condition. Police say it’s not clear if the officer shot any of the wounded individuals himself, but did confirm that he discharged his weapon after encountering a man firing what they called a “semi-automatic long gun” into a crowd.
Baltimore – Maryland’s most dangerous city by far in terms of violent crime – isn’t the only locality struggling to deal with criminals amid the virus panic. Hoping to limit officers’ exposure to the deadly pathogen, Philadelphia’s police commissioner on Wednesday ordered departments to adopt a catch-and-release policy for non-violent offenders, temporarily letting carjackers, drug dealers and looters off the hook for the duration of the crisis. While the city plans on pursuing the suspects with arrest warrants after things return to normal, for now they will be left to walk free.
Late last week, Portland police similarly declared that officers would no longer respond to calls that don’t involve a “life-threatening” situation, in an effort to conserve police resources and insulate personnel from Covid-19. Police spokesman Kevin Allen later clarified that officers would only stop responding to “lower level stuff.”
“The bigger stuff, of course we’re going to respond,” he said. “We’re just going to be looking for any opportunity we can to use the phone to do our job.”
Police from the Logan County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado took a slightly different approach, taking to Facebook to ask “all criminal activities/nefarious conduct to cease until further notice,” adding they would “update you when you can return to your normal criminal behavior.”
Los Angeles and New York City, meanwhile, have begun freeing non-violent inmates to make room in already-crowded prisons, another attempt to stem the spread of the outbreak.