Baltimore may see the highest homicide rate ever recorded in the city by the end of 2019, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Police had recorded 338 homicides as of Tuesday, four shy of the 342 seen in 2017 and 2015. The city saw 353 homicides in 1993, the most of any year on record.
However, because the city had a larger population in the early 1990’s, the homicide rate per 100,000 residents in 2019 is nearing the rate from 1993, despite the lower total. If Baltimore sees 342 or more homicides by the end of 2019, the homicide rate will reach 57 per 100,000, surpassing the 1993 rate.
“It’s a major concern for me, not just as a hopeful man but as a citizen of Baltimore who grew up in inner city Baltimore,” Carmichael “Stokey” Cannady, a reformed drug dealer who became a community activist, told the AP. “I remember when a person had a conflict and would have a fight at best, now these young kids, at the age of 13, 14 years old, are finding handguns in their possession and they use them as toys.”
The homicide rate was declining before 2015. On April 12 of that year, 25-year-old Freddie Gray died while restrained in the back of a police van after officers arrested him on suspicion of illegally carrying a switchblade. The death sparked riots in the city after officers were accused of racism in the case. Gray was African-American.
The state attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, charged the officers involved with murder, and said she would attempt to give voice to rioters’ chants of “no justice, no peace.” The six officers charged were eventually acquitted, and in 2016 prosecutors dropped all remaining charges.
The homicide rate in Baltimore has remained high since Gray’s death. In 2019 the city appointed current Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to revamp the department.
“People can expect [the homicide rate] to go down, we are building capacity, but we need to have some type of effect on the poverty, the housing, the education, the addiction, the skills, the jobs and the lack thereof, together at the same time,” Harrison told the AP. “All of that has to be addressed while prosecuting people who commit crimes and preventing other people from committing those crimes. Otherwise, it continues and then you ask the question, ‘When does it stop?’ without fixing the reason it starts.”
President Trump in July described the district in which the Freddie Gray incident took place as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Trump blasted the district’s longtime representative Elijah Cummings, who died in October, for what the President said was Cummings’s failure to address problems of crime in the district.
Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan denounced Trump’s remarks as “outrageous and inappropriate.”