Gun violence in Baltimore continues as protests draw law enforcement away from rest of city

The homicides in Baltimore this year have so far surpassed those of last year by 25 percent. (Graphic: The Baltimore Sun)

The homicides in Baltimore this year have so far surpassed those of last year by 25 percent. (Graphic: The Baltimore Sun)

As most of Baltimore Police focused on protests, riots and looting last week, the city continued to be plagued with another problem which was present before the protests and will likely remain once they have subsided.

Homicides in the city have increased by 25 percent, with 77 intentional deaths so far this year. Twenty people have been killed since the death of Freddy Gray, the man who died from a head and spinal injury while in police custody and the spark in an onslaught of both peaceful and violent protests. Last week alone, more than a dozen different shootings across the city claimed at least two lives while all eyes – and a good portion of law enforcement – remained centered on the city’s civil unrest.

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Homicides in Baltimore in 2014 topped 210. (Graphic: The Baltimore Sun)

While the police force has been built up in anticipation of city-wide protest-related violence, police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk indicated the extra forces helped authorities continue to respond to other, unrelated crimes across the city. Nonetheless, Jay Davis, who has worked at a local pawn shop since the 1990s, told The Baltimore Sun that authorities recommended businesses close up shop at 5 p.m. instead of waiting until the designated 10 p.m. curfew. Davis, who believes investments in the area are discouraged because of mismanagement by the city, said there was concern that, due to downtown rioting, law enforcement resources would be lacking if any incidents were to occur.

Regardless, Davis stays because of the people, and despite the history of violence, Davis said he has “a lot of faith” in the neighborhood.

Troy Evans, a 46-year-old Baltimore resident, said the city’s everyday violence stems from both the police and the people themselves.

“It’s all under one umbrella,” Evans told the newspaper. “Half the kids, their parents are on drugs.”

Evans added there are few recreational centers around compared to when he was growing up.

Joseph Patrick, 58, who works at a Baltimore pawn shop, returned to work last week to clean up leftover crime scene tape, evidence of the previous night’s violence which claimed the life of a 42-year-old man.

“It didn’t look good for business,” Patrick said of picking up the police tape.

Yet he added, “It’s another day in the neighborhood.”

But Patrick also indicated that incorrect information being passed around the city did nothing but increase the already taut tension between police and the communities they have been sworn to protect and serve. Abounding rumors claimed police officers were responsible for the shooting which had occurred the night before.

“I told them, ‘That’s a damn lie, police didn’t do that,’” Patrick said.