Baltimore Police Chief Kevin Davis and other top police officials have warned of the threat of “hot spots” where people congregate, with a “hostage” sign and a “hot spot” sign painted on the city’s police cars.
Davis and other police leaders warned of an “escalation” to the type of incidents seen in the summer that led to deaths of Freddie Gray and Freddie Grey Jr. on June 17 and 18.
The police department has been on a mission to rebuild trust with the public after the death of Gray, who suffered a severe spinal injury while in police custody, and has been criticized by civil rights leaders for its handling of the Gray case.
Baltimore is already a city of hot spots, with residents in many neighborhoods reporting heightened tension.
“I’m very concerned about the number of instances of vandalism, threats and graffiti, which are all very dangerous,” Davis said Wednesday at a news conference.
“We know we are a hot spot, and we know we have a lot of hot spot areas.”
Davis added that the city has had at least four incidents of vandalism and threats to property since May.
The “hot Spot” sign was installed Tuesday night along the city-owned Interstate 95, between downtown Baltimore and the city of Falls Church, and will remain there until late Thursday.
The signs were removed Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, Davis said there are three hot spots in Baltimore that are not connected to the protests.
“I want to assure the citizens of Baltimore that they are safe and that we are taking this threat very seriously,” Davis told a news briefing.
“As you know, our officers and our community members have been targeted and attacked.
So we are doing everything we can to address these issues.”
The police department said Wednesday that it has arrested 10 people, including two of the suspects who were involved in the July 19 riots.
The two arrested are also accused of setting fire to two police vehicles.
During the press conference, Davis and the police chiefs of St. Mary’s County and Howard County said that police will work to restore trust with people who have recently been involved in protests and demonstrations.
Police said they have also arrested three people who were in possession of a bottle of a suspected hallucinogen called mescaline, and are trying to find the suspects.
There was a “large” increase in hate crimes on Wednesday, with hate crimes targeting African-Americans, whites and Muslims, according to the police department.
The number of hate crimes has been reported at least once per week since July 17, when the riots began.
“We have had a significant spike in hate incidents and vandalism, and the hate incidents have increased significantly over the last several days,” Davis added.
“That is something that is going to be very concerning to the people of Baltimore, and our city.”
Davis said that officers were “very concerned” about the “hot” signs in Baltimore, but stressed that it was not the first time there have been incidents of the type that have sparked concerns.
“In May, the very same type of graffiti was found on one of our officers’ cars, and that was immediately reported to us and was taken very seriously, as well,” Davis explained.
“And in June, another type of vandalized police vehicle was discovered and immediately reported.”