Baltimore has highest homicide rate of U.S. big cities
BALTIMORE — Baltimore had the worst homicide rate among the nation’s 50 largest cities last year and the second-highest violent crime rate overall, according to crime data the FBI released Monday.
The finding confirms a report released by USA Today earlier this year that branded Baltimore “the nation’s most dangerous city.”
There were 342 homicides in Baltimore last year, 56 per 100,000 people who live in the city. That’s the highest rate of any American city with more than 500,000 people, according to the FBI report, and significantly higher than other big cities.
Detroit which had the highest overall violent crime rate, ranked No. 2 in homicides, with 40 per 100,000 people. Memphis, Tenn., followed (28 homicides per 100,000), along with Chicago (24 per 100,000), Philadelphia (20 per 100,000) and Milwaukee (20 per 100,000). The FBI defines violent crime as a combination of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
So far this year, there have been 216 homicides in Baltimore. According to the latest weekly Baltimore Police Department summary, the rate of killing is down 16 percent from last year. Mayor Catherine Pugh touted the latest figures in a statement responding to the release of the FBI numbers.
“Our efforts to reduce violent crime are producing clear results,” Pugh said. “Crime is declining in every category.”
Pugh said even greater gains had been recorded in neighborhoods that her team has tagged as part of a Violence Reduction Initiative, which designates them for a surge of police resources and aid from other city departments.
“We are not satisfied and are determined to reduce crime and violence much more,” Pugh said. “One murder in Baltimore is one murder too many. But I am convinced that by addressing the root causes that give rise to hopelessness and eventually to criminal activity, we will make Baltimore safer for all residents.”
City Councilman Brandon Scott said it’s misleading to compare this year to last year — the deadliest on record in the city.
He looks instead to 2014, the last year when fewer than 300 people were killed in Baltimore. By Sept. 27 of that year, the city had seen just 162 homicides. Overall violent crime was much lower, too, with 6,040 incidents recorded by police, compared with 8,000 so far this year.
Scott, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said the current levels of violence can’t be accepted.
“The new normal should be the opposite,” he said. “The new normal should be us beating those record levels we saw a few years ago.”
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The data are presented in the 2017 edition of the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report, which relies on data reported by local law enforcement agencies.
While Baltimore topped the list for the biggest cities, some smaller cities reported an even higher homicide rate than Baltimore. St. Louis, which has a population of just over 300,000, had 205 homicides — a rate of 66 per 100,000 people.
Worse yet, East St. Louis, Ill., a city of fewer than 27,000 people, had 30 homicides, a rate of 111 per 100,000.
In Maryland, the deadliest city included in the FBI data is District Heights in Prince George’s County. The city of 6,000 people saw 4 homicides last year, a rate equal to St. Louis.
The violent crime rate across the nation decreased nearly 1 percent when compared with 2016 data, the FBI said. Additionally, the rate of property crimes declined by 3.6 percent.
Officials disagree about the causes of the rise in crime that began in 2015, but many analysts have pointed to the death of Freddie Gray in April that year as marking a significant shift.
In a speech last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cast blame on a consent decree that requires the Baltimore Police to respect people’s constitutional rights. Scott questioned that conclusion and said that policing methods previously employed in Baltimore led to abuses such as those by the Gun Trace Task Force, whose members were convicted in federal court of robberies.
“I want our police officers out there dealing with the most violent people, people who are disrupting neighborhoods,” Scott said. He said that’s a goal city residents share, “but they want that done in a professional and constitutional manner.”
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