Baltimore and Chicago are in a race to the bottom, murder-wise

The temperature is going up across most of the nation this month, and I mean that literally as well as in the figurative arena of political combat. And when the thermometer gets into the 90s in some of America’s larger urban centers it seems to bring out the worst in people. That was certainly the case in Chicago, where residents witnessed yet another weekend with near record numbers of shootings and murders. (Associated Press)

At least six people were fatally shot and 37 others were wounded in Chicago over the weekend in attacks that included two rifle homicides in Back of the Yards, nine people shot in a single incident in Lawndale and double shootings on the Riverwalk and at 31st Street Beach.

The violence, on the warmest weekend of the year, brought the number of homicides in Chicago this year to at least 275-nine fewer than last year but substantially higher than in other years going back to 2013, according to data kept by the Chicago Tribune.

At least 1,520 people have been shot in the city this year, down 150 from the last year. But again, this year’s tally is higher than at this time in 2015, 2014 and 2013. Last year was the most violent in Chicago in two decades.

Once again, this isn’t quite as bad as 2016, but posting the second worst shooting and murder rate in decades isn’t exactly a cause for celebration. One interesting thing to note is the slow increase in the use of rifles by Chicago gang members. They don’t seem to be of the AR-15 variety or the press would have been blaring “assault rifles” in every headline. But it’s still a notable factoid. According to FBI statistics, back in 2011 the total number of homicides committed with “rifles” across the entire nation was 323 for the whole year. And that includes all forms of hunting rifles and other long guns, not just the falsely labeled “assault rifles.” Clearly some of the gang members are looking for more firepower if they are willing to risk carrying something much harder to hide than a handgun.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, things weren’t much better. They also reached another bleak milestone in Charm City, with more than a dozen shootings. (CBS local)

A violent weekend across Baltimore continued into Sunday morning as seven more people were shot, taking the weekend’s toll to thirteen injured and one killed in shootings.

At about 10:30 p.m., police were called to the 1400 block of Carroll Street in Washington Village/Pigtown in South Baltimore, where the found a woman who had been shot in the back.

She was transported to an area hospital for treatment, and her condition is unknown.

One dead and a dozen wounded in gang shootings may sounds like a drop in the bucket compared to Chicago, but this is a question of proportion. With a population of just over 620K, Baltimore is less than one fourth the size of Chicago’s 2.7M inhabitants. If you scaled this up on the basis of population, that would be the same as 52 shootings in Chicago, so the violent crime problem is arguably worse.

In what may be a rare, positive or even hopeful sign for Baltimore’s residents, their new Mayor, Catherine Pugh, has reached the point of asking for help. (Baltimore Sun)

Following the most violent start to the year in Baltimore City history, Mayor Catherine Pugh is calling on the community to help end the almost daily homicides.

Many at Saturday morning’s meeting agreed that keeping young people busy and out of trouble is at the top of the priority list.

Community members, police and elected officials came together to demand a safer Baltimore.

Pugh isn’t sugar coating this either. At the meeting described in the linked article she announced that drug dealers from the city’s various gangs are recruiting children as young as eight years old into their ranks. Pugh is asking for state and federal help on the law enforcement front, but more importantly she’s reaching out to community leaders. There is no amount of cops that’s going to significantly change the conditions on the ground in Baltimore without the concerted, earnest cooperation of the families, churches and community leaders in these neighborhoods. Families who can’t keep their kids, particularly the young boys, in school, in the house and off the streets are going to lose them to the gangs. If the citizens themselves won’t reject gang activity there is little that the city can do.

Perhaps Mayor Pugh could send a memo to Rahm Emanuel out in Chicago. He still seems to be so busy blaming his own police for all the city’s ills that he doesn’t have much time to deal with the spiraling murder rate growing right under his nose.