Baltimore has reached another grim milestone, with a record for having its highest ever per-capita homicide rate last year.
There were 343 homicides in 2017, giving the city a per capita rating of 56 killings per 100,000 people.
Not surprisingly, the city is also suffering from a long-term decline in the number of residents. Federal records show the city’s population fell by more than 6,700 people from July 2015 to July 2016.
Baltimore contains slightly fewer than 615,000 people – about the same number of people who lived in the city 100 years ago.
The city’s homicide record is especially noteworthy given the decline in murders last year in other major American cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington.
Residents blame police inaction for the rising crime rates, citing relaxed police patrols and police backing off in dangerous neighborhoods.
However, the reason police are backing off is because of concerns about appearing “racist,” following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The turning point for Baltimore was the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in an incident widely publicized in the media. As the Baltimore Sun admitted, “The homicide spike dates to the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, and the unrest that followed.”
The incident resulted in riots and looting. The mayor at the time, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, infamously declared rioters would be given “space to destroy.”
Perhaps more importantly, it led to a chilling effect on law enforcement officers, who backed off from proactive policing in what has been called the “Ferguson effect.”
Baltimore has suffered more than 300 homicides for three years in a row. Residents now claim they don’t feel safe anywhere.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has called for aggressive police tactics and legislative changes, including new mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses and warrant sweeps.
But some journalists call such proposals “scary” and “discriminatory.” Civic leaders have tried softer methods to stem the tide of blood, including calls for “murder-free weekends.”
However, such calls have gone unheeded. And it already appears 2018 will develop much the same way as 2017. Not even 16 hours into the new year, police were already investigating two murders.