26.12.19

Nonstop violence as Baltimore nears record homicide rate

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Baltimore could wrap up 2019 with its highest per-capita homicide rate on record as killings of adults and minors alike for drugs, retribution, money or no clear reason continue to add up and city officials appear unable to stop the violence.

Police recorded 338 homicides as of Tuesday, following a week of relentless gunfire that saw eight people shot — three of them fatally — in one day and nine others — one fatally — another day. That total is up from 309 in 2018 and four shy of the 342 killings tallied in 2017 and 2015, the year when the city’s homicide rate suddenly spiked.


With just over 600,000 residents, Baltimore’s homicide rate would reach approximately 57 per 100,000 residents if the death toll reaches 342. That would eclipse the rate of 1993, when the city had a record 353 killings but was also much more populous.

By contrast, New York City, with more than 8 million residents, had 306 homicides through Dec. 15.

Police yellow tape and makeshift memorials with flowers, stuffed animals and balloons have become common in some neighborhoods of this deeply segregated city. Memorials can be found within blocks of each other at the same time.

“It’s a major concern for me, not just as a hopeful man but as a citizen of Baltimore who grew up in inner city Baltimore,” said Carmichael “Stokey” Cannady, a reformed drug dealer turned community activist who wants to be mayor. “I remember when a person had a conflict and would have a fight at best, now these young kids, at the age of 13, 14 years old, are finding handguns in their possession and they use them as toys ... The whole system needs to be revamped.”

This is the fifth year in a row this Mid-Atlantic community dubbed “Charm City” has reported more than 300 killings. Before 2015, that number had generally been on the decline, but the trend reversed after civil unrest followed the death in police custody of a young black man, Freddie Gray.

Reasons for the upward trend vary and are subject to interpretation. Many accuse police of taking a hands-off approach to crime fighting since six of their own were charged in connection with Gray’s death. Others attribute it to the apparent free flow of illegal guns, the effects of a punishing opioid epidemic, social inequalities and a lack of decent jobs for many in disenfranchised neighborhoods. Some say political incompetence at City Hall also contributed.

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