By Rob Weinhold
I did yet another interview today with the local CBS affiliate about Baltimore’s escalating homicide rate in a city that is losing populous by the week. By many accounts, this may be the deadliest year on record – Baltimore remains in crisis. Candidly, I hesitate doing these types of local and national interviews as it is personally draining to continue to lend perspective about a perceived sense of long-term hopelessness and despair in a city I care deeply about. But that’s just it…there is hope.
Comparatively, a very small number of violent people are incrementally destroying a city, so it stands to reason a very large number of determined, empowered people can solve the problem. Everyone says they want to reduce crime and improve the quality of life. But there’s a big difference between wanting to and getting it done. Leaders must have BOTH the skill and the will, with grit in their belly. One without the other is certain failure.
There is not one contributing generational factor that led our city to this point, but one thing is certain – without hope, engagement and real opportunity, many will continue to suffer and/or flee a wonderful city built on centuries of discipline, hard work, honesty and results.
I’ve said many times, the first order of leadership is to provide a safe place to live, work and raise a family. If public safety fails, everything else follows. There is no amount of money, recycled quick-fix programs or tired stump speeches that will solve the city’s ills without an effective crime fighting strategy (along with the ability to fully execute). In sports terms, the best playbook in the world won’t win a world championship unless the team, individually and collectively, is able to gel and execute. It all starts with accountability.
I believe effective leaders fully embrace five core disciplines – they know how to:
- Hold People Accountable
Whether crime fighting or starting a company, there must be clarity in vision, goals, strategies and tactics. The old management mantra, “what gets measured, gets done” is alive and well. Goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time sensitive). Without the measurement of and accountability for results (crime, profitability or wins/losses) why should anyone have faith in a system that generates the same results? Is Baltimore wrestling with the wrong strategy, an inability to execute or both? This isn’t about one person; it’s about a system. Long-term success is not “hero-driven,” it’s “systems-driven.” Baltimore’s healing process will outpace any appointment term or time in elected office stopwatch – the public safety system must be optimal so future leaders can plug and play, with incremental modification…not for the sake of credit, but within the spirit of results.
Look at any stat – homicide, sentencing, incarceration, recidivism…there is a reason many police departments have a photo on file of most everyone they are looking for – they are repeat offenders. Why? Lack of accountability for the most serious, violent people who live among us.
Maryland’s governor was quoted in today’s Baltimore Sun as saying: “Probably one of the biggest parts of the problem is that 60 percent of all of the people that are arrested and charged and prosecuted for committing crimes with guns in the city are let out into the streets. They don’t serve time,” Hogan said. “It’s the same people committing the same kinds of crimes over and over. It’s a problem, not with the policing, but with the state’s attorney’s office and with the court system.”
If accurate, no wonder the confidence of many Baltimore’s residents is shaken. One calls to report a gun violator at 6 PM and after a quick visit to Central Booking, the offender is back on the corner at 6 AM. And longer-term, the gun violation ends-up being just another line item within a lengthy rap sheet. Different day, different results – not yet, the system is broken. But, who developed the system? People. Who can fix it? People. There is hope.
In my view, an effective crime fighting strategy is similar to a three-legged stool. Each leg represents a vertical of concentration – enforcement, prevention and treatment. If each discipline is not fully resourced and effectively executed, the entire system fails. There are obviously many contributing factors to long-term success or failure, but marshaling every resource possible is critical, whether it lie in the category of funding or faith.
What is accountability? It’s putting your hand up and taking ownership and responsibility for your lane. Whether executive, legislative or judicial, the players must gel and execute. Otherwise, there is certain failure.
I am an optimist and I believe there is hope, but hope alone is not a plan. One person, one decision, one outcome at a time will drive favorable momentum. Baltimore didn’t get into this overnight and certainly won’t get celebrate success by sunrise tomorrow.
I’ll end my rambling with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” If all of us really want to make a positive difference and hold ourselves accountable, the tide will slowly turn and Baltimore will be recognized for its true, amazing fiber.
Do your part; you know what it is.