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19 May, 2015 18:55

Baltimore sees a surge in violent crime

Baltimore sees a surge in violent crime

Thirty-four murders have occurred in Baltimore, Maryland during a recent 30-day span, while still reeling from the riots that broke out last month following the death of Freddie Gray. The city has seen a surge in violence compared to last year.

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that 164 non-fatal shootings occurred in the city between January 1 and this Monday, and at least 96 homicides have been documented during that same span.

Yet while crime is indeed on the rise this year compared to statistics from 12 months earlier, the weeks since Gray’s passing have been especially marred by violence, spawning more than one death per day.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department on April 12 and died a week later from injuries sustained while in custody. His arrest and subsequent death gave way to protests that later turned violent and prompted the deployment of the National Guard. The city has been struggling to rebuild in the weeks since.

READ MORE: Baltimore riot: Violent clashes, tear gas, rubber bullets after Freddie Gray funeral

However, as the city struggles to regain normality in the aftermath of the Gray riots and international attention they attracted, new crime data shows that Baltimore – and particularly his former neighborhood in which the BPD’s Western District operates – has hosted activity that’s anything but desirable in the month since his death.

“Although riots and protests after the death of Freddie Gray, who was injured in police custody, brought national attention to the city, the slayings have attracted little notice,” Peter Hermann wrote in the Washington Post this week.

Citywide homicides are up almost 40 percent compared to the same time last year, and nonfatal shootings have surged by 60 percent, the Sun reported this week.

Baltimoreans have “almost been anesthetized” to the killings, local pastor and activist Reverend Jamal H. Bryant told the Post. “In any other community, these numbers would be jaw-dropping.”

Of the nearly 100 murders that have unfolded since the start of the year, at least 20 have occurred in the Western District, and that part of the city now needs to see only one more homicide in the next six months to be on par with last year’s statistics.

Baltimore has around 620,000 residents, according to Census Bureau statistics, making it close to Memphis, Tennessee in terms of population. Yet while recent Federal Bureau of Information stats have placed both of those locales on lists of the 10 most dangerous American cities as of late, the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper says there have been only 36 known homicides in that city this year – less than one-third of what Baltimore has witnessed during that same span. Washington, DC, the nearest metropolitan city to Baltimore, has seen only 40 murders so far this year among its roughly 660,000 residents.

Six BPD officers have been indicted with charges related to Gray’s death, and the US Department of Justice has since opened a federal inquiry to examine if any other misconduct can be detected in the force. Meanwhile, officials say the man’s passing and the response since has hardly made it easier to police the city.

“Officers are coming up to me and saying, ‘I’m afraid to do my job,’ ” Lt. Kenneth Butler, a president of a group for black officers, told the Post. “Morale is low” across the board, Butler said, and all officers regardless of race are “equally upset” over the crime wave that continues to sweep the city.