Baltimore, Maryland; a city notably entrenched in a steady increase in violent crime over the last several years, experienced a near 2 week period of 0 homicides, coming to an end earlier this week.
Until Tuesday, Charm City had been unable to surpass the 10-day benchmark reached in August 2011. The city had met the mark twice more in October 2013 and March 2014 – but never made it past 10 days until Tuesday, according to WJZ.
Despite a decreasing population, Baltimore saw its highest ever murder rate in 2017, according to a report from CBS News.
By the end of the year, the city had been dealt 343 homicides – the most per capita in history. Baltimore had suffered through 353 homicides in 1993. However, at the time, the city only housed about 100,000 more people, according to The Baltimore Sun.
When compared to the country’s biggest city, those numbers are astounding.
More people were killed in Baltimore, whose population stands at just 615,000, than New York City — whose 5 boroughs are home to a whopping 8.5 million. New York accumulated less than 300 killings in 2017 with crime steadily declining over nearly 3 decades, according to the newspaper.
“Not only is it disheartening, it’s painful,” Mayor Catherine Pugh told the Associated Press toward the end of 2017.
The complicated cause behind Baltimore’s staggering crime problem is the source of much debate.
Some point to an increase in illegal guns, while still others draw attention to Maryland’s growing opioid epidemic. Gov. Larry Hogan, declared a state of emergency in response to the crisis last year.
Moreover, the already rocky city was dealt a major blow during the aftermath of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
“The conventional wisdom, or widely agreed upon speculation, suggests that the great increase in murders is happening partly because the police have withdrawn from aggressively addressing crime in the city’s many poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods,” Donald Norris, professor emeritus of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, told CBS last month.
That wisdom would seem to be supported by arrests reportedly dropping to their lowest levels in years.
A police spokesperson explained that there are a “multitude of factors that have been associated with the recent decline in violence.”
“The Mayor started a Violence Reduction Initiative in October where all facets of government are pulled together to develop strategies for the communities most affected by violence. They meet every single day and brief on what they are doing,” T.J. Smith said in an emailed statement to The Western Journal.
“This has been an intricate part of the crime reduction strategy. Continuing our focus on the most violent offenders through enforcement. Grassroots efforts of community groups. Strategic initiatives and deployments.”
Despite a difficult 2017, Baltimore experienced a brief reprieve from all the violence over the past 2 weeks.
“We’re not out the woods, we have a lot of work to do. But it means to me that what we have in place is now starting to work,” Daphne Alston of Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters United Inc. told WJZ on Monday. At that point, the city had just reached the 11-day milestone.
Though the streak came to an end this week, Alston is still optimistic, though she emphasized that there is a lot of work that needs to get done.
“I feel good about it. I think we’re on our way to seeing a change,” Alston told The Western Journal.
“Everybody just needs to roll up their sleeves and get back to work and be the people that we used to be. Be the parents that we used to be, the church that we used to be, the community that we used to be, the elected officials that we used to be. I think everybody now is realizing that it’s going to take a village. It’s going to take all of us,” she added.
The police department is reportedly “being more aggressive when stopping criminals.” WJZ reported that since December, more than 300 people have been arrested on warrant and gun violations.
What’s more is “increased police visibility.”
“This is everyone collectively getting together to go after those who are trying to harm people in our city,” said T.J. Smith.
Besides law enforcement, community activists have been rallying for incremental changes in city homicide rates.
“To be at 11 days without murder it’s like ‘What?'” said Erricka Bridgeford of Baltimore Ceasefire, during a statement to the city’s CBS affiliate.
Since 2017, Baltimore Ceasefire — an organization whose ultimate goal is have a year without homicides — has been establishing ceasefire weekends.The group has called on residents to commit to “one another to be non-violent in thoughts, words, and deeds, for AT LEAST the ceasefire weekend,” according to their website.
“We bury too many people. We have too many faces of people on our t-shirts, and this just means that people haven’t been dying in vain,” Bridgeford said.
Baltimore’s 11-day streak came to a close on Tuesday, when a 22-year-old man was shot just before 1:15 PM, according to WJZ.
“I don’t know it’s just a sad situation. 11 days and now. I was praying and hoping that nothing happens,” one resident reportedly said.
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