‘Out of control’: Murder rate in Baltimore worst ever, Chicago paces record high
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, has experienced more than 100 murders before the end of April. After five people were killed last weekend, the total number of homicides in 2017 ticked up to 108, according to the Baltimore Sun. The last time the city experienced more murders by this point was 1993.
Since the population was greater in 1993, this year marks the city’s highest murder rate per capita ever, according to the Baltimore Sun. The murder rate in the city is up more than 30 percent compared to last year. Violent crime, shootings and robberies have also gone up by double-digit percentages from last year.
At last week’s news briefing, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh explained how she went to the FBI’s Baltimore office to meet with the special agent in charge and requested assistance in bringing down the murder rate in the city.
"Murder is out of control," Pugh said at her weekly news briefing Wednesday, according to CNN. "There are too many guns on the streets. We're looking for all the help we can get."
In addition, the city is operating with the lowest number of police officers in around a decade. While the city never had less than 2,900 officers on the force throughout the 2000s, there are only 2,500 officers today. The city has been paying $1 million a month in overtime to make up for the difference.
“You get in a crisis mode like we’re in right now with crime out of control and not enough uniformed officers on the street,” Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told WJZ. “I would say it’s at a crisis point.”
Pugh requested additional agents to help fight violent crime in the city, according to the mayor’s spokesman, Anthony McCarthy. He said that could either mean bringing in additional FBI agents or reassigning agents to work with local police. Pugh is also asking the FBI to share its latest crime fighting technologies with the Baltimore Police.
On Tuesday, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it plans to assist the Baltimore Police with a gun-tracing van to help solve gun crimes quicker.
"The summers in Baltimore tend to be very violent," McCarthy said, according to KSAT. "And the mayor wants to get a handle on all the murders, the flood of guns on the streets and the gang activity."
McCarthy said that Pugh hopes to make an announcement about adding federal officers to the force by next week.
In Chicago, Illinois, more than 1,000 people have been shot and nearly 200 homicides have been reported in the first four months of 2017. As of Monday morning, there were 193 homicides reported, which is 18 more than the 175 reported last year. Last year was the most violent in Chicago for the past 20 years.
In April 2016, there were 36 reported murders compared to 45 this year, an increase of 9 homicides. There were a total of 247 shooting incidents this April, only six shy of the 253 reported in April 2016.
While homicide rates in the city have remained high, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that the overall number of people shot has gone down from 1,129 last year to 1,051 so far this year.
“The shooting incidents are down a little bit over 100 from the same time last year, so that’s some encouraging sign. The number of shooting victims is actually down, so if we can keep trending in that direction, then we should be setting ourselves up for a pretty good year,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, according to WBBM.
Johnson hopes the decline in the number of people shot will lead to fewer homicides over the course of the year. He said the new crime tip website and “ShotSpotter” gunshot technology that has been installed in the most violent areas in the city have made a difference.
“We put those new strategic support centers in both of those districts, so a lot of that technology is helping us be more proactive in the way that we deploy,” Johnson said.