With more than a homicide a day in Baltimore to start 2017, Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday that her administration is searching for answers to the city’s persistent crime.

Through the first 39 days of the year, 40 people were killed — a 118 percent increase from the same time in 2016. More than 112 people have been shot.

“This strategy that we have in place is not working to the extent we need it to,” Pugh said.

She cited the case of an 18-year-old teen who was shot and killed by police Tuesday. Police said the teen was carrying a gun and had been arrested three times in the past month on drug and gun charges.

He had just been released from jail Monday on bail for felony gun and drug possession charges, and was back on the street with another gun, according to a police spokesman.

“It shows dysfunction, I believe, in our criminal justice system,” Pugh said of the case. “People who have those many gun charges probably should not be on our streets. We’ve got a crime problem in our city. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In contrast to the soaring homicide rate in Baltimore — where about 620,000 people live — New York City is experiencing record lows in violence. In January, 20 people were killed in the city of 8.4 million.

Pugh said she’s meeting with experts from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Bloomberg Philanthropies to try to come up with solutions to the crime problem. She noted last week she called a meeting of nearly 100 community members to discuss a different direction for the city.

“It was focused on what we need to do about the crime problem in our city,” Pugh said. “While I know that gun violence is a major problem in our city, I also know that police can’t solve this problem by themselves. … A group of us came together to talk about solutions. How do we get the community engaged? How do we make our streets safer?”

Pugh said the urgency of the problem hit home this week as she read to third-grade students. One of the students asked her, “How do you make us feel safe?”

“You know that when third-graders are thinking about it, that kindergartners are thinking about it,” she said. “This is serious business. We’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

The mayor recently authorized the hiring of 100 additional officers to patrol Baltimore’s streets.

That move came after Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in January he would reassign 100 of the department’s officers to patrol duty amid charges from the police union that the city is “at great risk” because there are not enough officers to adequately cover patrol shifts.

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(c)2017 The Baltimore Sun

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