A simple question: how much do you know about how Baltimore’s criminal justice system works?
For most residents of Baltimore, and anyone in fact, the answer is probably remarkably little. Perhaps there is knowledge issues surrounding the Baltimore Police Department or the latest news about the State’s Attorney. But in reality, few people know how the entire system, from policing through prosecution to adjudication works as a whole.
Baltimore Witness is an effort to change that. We will track violent crime, starting with homicides and non-fatal shootings, from act to judicial resolution, telling every story. We believe that transparency leads to accountability.
We will report every step of the judicial process but we are different from traditional journalism because we do not provide selective coverage on the most gory or headline grabbing. That kind of coverage has its place, but we do not think we should be the arbiters of whose life is worth reporting.
We are also data hogs. We will grab every bit of public data we can and then verify and enhance it. We will track over 100 different measures and allow the public to do its own data sifting from what we gather. We hope that providing accurate, reliable data, we can help lead to meaningful criminal justice reform.
We are nonpartisan and non-advocacy. There are lots of different ideas and many important voices that need to be heard. We believe our value is by letting the data and the process speak for themselves. We will tell you what the data says but we will never tell you what should be done about it.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Baltimore Witness is a sister site to D.C. Witness. That site was started in 2015 as an effort to provide internships to student-journalists as other media internships started to fade away as the industry changed.
Within a year it became clear that nobody else was doing the reporting D.C. Witness was, both reporting on the communities of color that are those most caught up in our judicial system, and providing the kind of transparency of the criminal justice system. It had become much larger than an internship program.
This was the early days of big data and It was about this time that we started to gather data. As of 2021 we have more than 200,000 data points on more than 1100 homicides. And that data grows every day.
We realized that we had grown from a website into a methodology and a unique vehicle for transparency and accountability. We were no longer just about homicides in D.C. but categories of crime on a local level.
And then George Floyd was murdered. It was time to bring what we do to other places.
So we looked for a city that was looking to change and was working address its problems of violent crime.
Baltimore Witness went live April 26, 2021