What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Baltimore looks to its parks department to help save kids from gunfire. Since the beginning of 2021, eight children have been shot and killed in the city. In a new story, J. Brian Charles looks at the out-of-the-box solutions Baltimore city leaders are pursuing to save young lives: This summer, Mayor Brandon Scott sought out more recreational opportunities for children by increasing the Department of Recreation and Parks’ budget. The idea is that by offering young people more activities and safe places to hang out during the afternoon and evening, they’re less likely to encounter violence. You can read the article here.

The high frequency of traffic stops that end in police killings. In the last five years, officers killed more than 400 drivers or passengers in traffic stops, according to a New York Times analysis of publicly reported cases. In no incident did the driver or passenger wield a gun or knife, and none of them had been pulled over in a pursuit involving a violent crime. Officers were charged with crimes in just five of the cases, while local governments paid out at least $125 million in wrongful death- or related settlements. Black drivers were overrepresented in the cases, and many of the stops began with minor traffic violations like a broken tail light or running a red light. Related from The Trace: In April, Ann Givens interviewed a legal historian whose work explores the fraught history of traffic enforcement and the problems that emerge when officers get to decide whose cars to stop. 

Legislators want to improve clearance rates for violent crimes. As murders spiked in 2020, the share of police arrests in murder cases dropped to just 54 percent, a decline from 2019 that was especially pronounced in big cities. Hoping to stop the trend, Representative Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, and five of her Democratic House colleagues have introduced the VICTIM Act. The bill would create a Justice Department grant program to award law enforcement agencies $1 billion over 10 years to improve clearances rates for shootings and other violent crimes. Agencies would be able to use the funds to hire more homicide detectives and non-fatal shooting investigators or improve evidence gathering and victims’ services. The bill would also enlist the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice to evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and practices adopted by the grantees. From The Trace: We reported in 2019 that police departments in cities across the country are increasingly failing to solve the shootings of Black and Hispanic victims.

Jury selection begins today in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The 18-year-old Illinois man faces multiple charges, including homicide and attempted homicide, for shooting three men amid unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. Rittenhouse, who also faces one count of a minor-in-possession gun charge, will claim self-defense. The judge hearing the case drew controversy last week when he told attorneys in the case that they could refer to the men Rittenhouse shot as “looters” or “rioters,” but not “victims.”   

ICYMI: New York enacts ghost gun restrictions. New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a law that requires guns in the state to be serialized and a second bill that bans the sale and possession of unfinished receivers. Coming a week after Delaware’s own new ghost gun bill, New York became the ninth state with a law restricting the ownership, manufacture, or possession of unserialized weapons or ghost gun kits.

Data Point

More than one per week — the rate at which police killed drivers or passengers in the last five years during traffic stops. [The New York Times]