Baltimore braces for its worst murder rate of the century

This has long since become an example of what’s known among the cool social media kids as an “evergreen headline.” Despite numerous proposals and promises from politicians and the top officials in law enforcement, the epidemic of murders in Baltimore, Maryland has failed to diminish. In fact, it’s arguably still getting worse. The grim news from Christmas week came as anything but a miracle as no less than sixteen people were shot in two days, four of them fatally. These events brought the city’s death toll to the point where they have tied the highest murder rate in the 20th century and surpassed the previous record per capita homicide rate. (WTOP News)

Baltimore broke its annual per capita homicide record after reaching 342 killings Friday.

With just over 600,000 residents, the city hit a historically high homicide rate of about 57 per 100,000 people after recent relentless gunfire saw eight people shot — three fatally — in one day and nine others — one fatally — another day.

The new rate eclipses that of 1993, when the city had a record 353 killings but was much more populous before years of population exodus.

The 342 figure ties the previous 21st-century highs set in 2015 and 2017. And keep in mind that there are still four days to go. The previous record of 353 was set in 1993, but it would probably require a serious gang war (that hopefully won’t happen) to reach that mark.

The reason the press is bringing up the per capita murder rate is that Charm City has already broken the record by that metric. The city has been losing population every year for a couple of decades, so that rate stands at 57 killings for every 100,000 people. Compare that to New York City where they have recorded 306 murders. That works out to a per capita rate of fewer than 4 murders per 100,000 people. In other words, the per capita murder rate in Baltimore is literally 15 times higher than it is in New York City. You would literally be safer walking around the streets of Baghdad.

Despite the failed promises from City Hall and the Police Commissioner, some residents of Baltimore have been trying to help. Mothers who have lost children have worked with church leaders to organize “ceasefire weekends” and that’s managed to work a couple of times. But a couple of three-day stretches with no killings is sadly only a drop in the bucket.

The linked report offers a variety of potential reasons why this problem hasn’t been solved, but few of them point to much in the way of viable solutions.

Many have accused police of taking a hands-off approach to crime-fighting since six of their own were charged in connection with Gray’s death. None of the officers was ultimately convicted.

Others have attributed 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 has contributed.

The Baltimore PD has had more than its fair share of problems, it’s true. Corruption on the special Gun Trace Taskforce resulted in the arrest and conviction of several officers. And given the hostility shown toward the police under the previous two mayors, if some of them have been reticent about confronting and arresting gang members it might not be all that surprising. But placing the entire blame on them is unreasonable.

The city is awash with illegal guns to be sure. (A problem that’s not diminished by gun control laws impacting law-abiding gun owners.) And the incompetence and corruption in the city government clearly can’t be ignored. But as I’ve mentioned here before, the city’s infamous “don’t snitch” reputation combined with generations of impoverished people growing up in gang families makes this a daunting challenge. In the end, the people of the city of Baltimore are the only ones who can turn this around, assuming the will exists to do so. Otherwise, a once-great city is going to follow in the footsteps of Camden, New Jersey.