Tyree Moorehead believes the key to fighting Baltimore’s rising murder rate is to pay the potential killers.
At 15, Tyree Moorehead was convicted of second-degree murder. After serving eighteen years in prison, the ex-convict dedicates his time to creating “no shoot zones” across Baltimore. Now, Moorehead has proposed a novel approach: prevent crime by paying those most likely to commit it.
“I’ve talked to these people. I’ve seen the shooters. It’s a small city, I know who the hustlers are,” Moorehead said, pointing toward a common financial desperation. “Guess what they want? They want money,” he said.
Since 2015, rapper Tyree Moorehead has painted nearly 200 "No Shoot Zones" throughout Baltimore.
— Paul Gessler (@PaulGessler) December 3, 2019
On the surface, the idea might seem crazy, but there is evidence to suggest it can actually work. Richmond, California, was one of the most dangerous cities in the country until the idea of mitigating poverty for the highest-risk citizens helped to cut their crime rate in half.
“Operation Peacemaker Fellowship” identified 17 people considered the most central to the city’s violence and offered them counseling, social services, employment, and $1,000 per month if they agreed to a set of guidelines: Daily contact, conflict avoidance, and a “life map” to plan for a better future. Within months, Richmond’s murder rate plummeted.
DeVone Boggan, the activist hired to lead the Richmond outreach, said it was more than just money. “If you believe that simply paying someone a stipend will reduce gun crimes in cities where gun crimes are long and loud, you’re wrong. We’ve done something much, much more comprehensive than that,” he said at the time.
Moorehead is looking to take a similar approach in Baltimore where he faces steep skepticism. Former Baltimore police spokesman TJ Smith agreed that there is a need for new ideas and said the activist’s plan “speaks to the desperation that we all have” in cleaning the blood from their city’s streets. Still, he is concerned that such a plan could backfire.
“It could make it easier for people to get their hands on guns because they now have an influx of a different level of cash,” Smith told local news station Fox 45 on Wednesday.
Moorehead remains resolute. “I can’t stop the shootings, no one in this world has proven to stop the shootings — not even the church,” he said, “but what we can do is put them in compliance.”
According to a tracker by the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore reported 348 homicides in 2019, 335 in 2020, and has already seen 39 more in the first weeks of 2021. A 2019 study showed that Baltimore has a higher murder rate than many South American nations.