We’ve recently been discussing some of the good news out of Baltimore, with some extended periods without murders and citizens taking to the streets to try to suppress gang activity. That’s a refreshing change which I still maintain gives us cause for hope in what previously appeared to be a completely hopeless situation. But the minor steps forward toward the end of the year were not enough to overcome the flood of bodies the police were dealing with, and Charm City has been identified as the most dangerous place to live in 2017. (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s highest-ever per capita homicide rate in 2017 also made it the deadliest big city in the country, USA Today reported Monday.

Though official data from the FBI won’t be available until later in the year, USA Today reviewed the homicide rates in the nation’s 50 largest cities and Baltimore came out on top. The 342 homicides the city experienced in 2017 were a 17 percent increase over the prior year, and translated to a rate of 56 killed per 100,000 people.

That easily outpaced New Orleans and Detroit, which both had about 40 killings per 100,000 people, according to the report.

Baltimore had more homicides last year than New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, all considerably larger cities. Only Chicago, also a considerably larger city, had more.

The Sun correctly points out that these numbers can be a bit misleading. The USA Today study was limited to the fifty largest American cities by population, which means that only cities with close to a half million people made the list. In term of per capita carnage, there’s more blood being shed in smaller locales. The city which probably deserved top honors was St. Louis. They managed to rack up 205 homicides, only 37 less than Baltimore while having a population less than half the size.

Usually, when talking about the most dangerous cities in the country, you immediately have to include Camden, New Jersey in the conversation. Not so for 2017, though. Camden only recorded 23 killings, less than one third the number from just five years ago. Officials were cautious about celebrating that number, however, because the number of shootings actually rose. I don’t know if that means they’re just becoming really poor shots, are buying better body armor or what, but something odd is going on. For a city of just 75K people, that’s still a lot of murders.

I don’t want to read too much into Baltimore’s numbers at this stage. Things really calmed down at the end of 2017 and this year is starting off more slowly in terms of killings. I believe the citizens working in league with the local police are starting to make a difference. They probably can’t wipe out their gang problem entirely, but the residents of Baltimore should be admired for the effort they are putting in.