For the first time in decades, Baltimore City’s murder rate has fallen below 200. Sure, it’s still at the top of the list of murders per capita, but it’s a significant decline and definitely a reason to celebrate. It represents just the third time since the 1960s since there were fewer than 200 murders.
In 2001, officials were celebrating a murder rate that finally dropped below 300, saying it was just the beginning of things to come. In 2007, it was on target again to breach the 300 mark, but was held below.
Neighboring cities like Washington DC have also experienced a similar drop. D.C. saw a high of 479 murders in 1991, and only 108 in the last year.
According to The Baltimore Sun, murders are often seen as “a reliable barometer of crime because they are less subjective than other categories.”
So what’s the cause of the drop? No one can say for certain, though city officials would like to take credit. From taking down drug organizations to targeted enforcement operations, police, probation, and prosecutors are all believed to have played a role in the overall decline of crime and violence in the city.
“A very small segment of our population pool disproportionately contributes to violent crime in this city. Many of these guys are known to us,” said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who took office in 2007. He admits that when he took over the city lacked a real crime reduction plan. He instituted a plan to focus on the “worst of the worst”, targeting known “bad guys” and creating the Violent Crimes Impact Section.
The existing murders still tend to disproportionately affect members of the African American community. Ninety-five percent of the victims of last year’s homicides were black. Only one of the cases have been closed and only 46% of the murder cases have been solved by police—one of the lowest clearance rates on record.
The positive effects of a lower homicide rate, however, are appreciated by all. Police see kids playing football on streets where they wouldn’t have normally been out and about. Community activists remark on the changing scene, saying there were street corners so packed with drug dealers, in years past, that you couldn’t push through.
Do Baltimore police still go after the “little guys”? Yes. Though they are primarily interested in the “worst of the worst”, they will still arrest you for seemingly petty offenses like drug possession and theft.
If you are facing charges, whether for drug possession or homicide, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.