Baltimore records 300 murders this year so far

With 46 days left in 2015, Baltimore passed a grim milestone; they recorded the 300th murder this year.

City leaders can't explain the huge spike in killings, but perhaps not coincidentally, the rise in murders began shortly after the Freddie Gray riots in April.

Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore's 2015 homicide rate currently sits at 47 per 100,000 people, second only to the rate in St. Louis, which has also seen a steep spike in gun violence this year. Total shootings in Baltimore are up nearly 80 percent over the comparable period last year, while other types of crime, including robbery and burglary, have also increased.

Efforts to combat the street crime come as the Department of Justice continues an investigation into allegations of brutality and other issues within the Baltimore Police Department. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the first of six trials for the police officers charged in Gray's arrest and death; it is scheduled to begin Nov. 30.

Officials have struggled to identify the cause of the spike in homicides. Earlier in the year, police and federal law enforcement officials speculated that the looting of drugs from pharmacies during the April 27 rioting may have played a role by disrupting street markets. But with the violence continuing, police Commissioner Kevin Davis said it now appears there is a widespread perception by criminals that the time is ripe to settle scores.

Questions have also been raised about whether a slowdown by police contributed to the spike, because arrests plummeted in the weeks after the six officers were charged in the Gray case. But police are quick to note that gun seizures have increased.

Davis said that while the rate of killings has quickened, old patterns of violence remain to blame.

"There is no randomness associated with these murders," Davis said of the majority of this year's killings. "They're gang-related, they're retaliatory in nature, and they center around drug disputes. And unfortunately, where there are drugs, there's money; and where there is money, there are guns."

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, through aides, has declined interview requests about the deadly year, citing a judge's gag order in the Gray case. In September, she discounted a connection between the unrest and the spike in gun violence, saying it was a cyclical uptick caused by years of "failed policies."

In a prepared statement last week, Mosby said she was taking a "holistic approach to address the systemic issues that present obstacles in the effective prosecution of crime," in hopes of encouraging more witnesses to come forward and "take a stand against violence."

Have gangs become bolder in taking revenge or fighting for turf? If so, why? Chicago saw a similar spike in the murder rate 3 years ago, attributed to a new drug cartel trying to muscle in on the business. But there is no such situation in Baltimore, a city that's 1/13 the size of New York City but experiences more murders.

It is tempting to draw the conclusion that police in Baltimore are refusing to do their job because of the second guessing by prosecutor Moseby and others. But that would be unfair to the hundreds of dedicated policemen who go out into this shooting gallery every day to try and protect the citizens.

Perhaps a permissive atmosphere has been created by city leaders who have made it clear that they believe the Baltimore PD is a sinkhole of corruption and  brutality.  Whatever the reason, citizens are suffering and both the police and politicians appear to be at a loss regarding what to do about it.


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