Baltimore experiences record-breaking bloodshed, highest homicide rate in 20 years

Shootings are the leading cause of homicides in the city. (Graphic: Baltimore Sun)

Shootings are the leading cause of homicides in the city. (Graphic: Baltimore Sun)

A Sunday morning shooting in Baltimore left one person injured and another dead, pushing the city’s monthly homicide rate to the highest it’s been in more than 20 years.

Forty-three people were killed in the month of May, surpassing the August 1990 record by one, and bringing to city’s total homicides for the year to 116, The Baltimore Sun reported. Only two months in the city’s history have had more murders – December 1971 with 44 victims and August 1972 with 45.

However, during the 1970’s, Baltimore’s population was significantly higher than it is today, to the tune of some 300,000 more residents. The homicides per 100,000 residents hovered at 6.1 for the month of May and respectively at 5.0 in December 1972 and 4.8 in August 1971. Taking the population size into consideration, last month was the deadliest month in the city’s history.

Furthermore, there were an additional 108 non-fatal shootings in Baltimore last month, and according to a report from a local CBS affiliate, children are no longer off-limits when it comes gang violence, as once believed. In fact, the number of juvenile victims, who are often caught in the crossfire, involved in non-fatal shootings is up an alarming 500 percent from last year.

Law enforcement, city officials and residents are all split on what is causing the uptick in violence, but all agree that something needs to be done.

“We have to do better. We have to want more,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at a ceremony for McKenzie Elliott, a 3-year-old whose life was taken by a stray bullet last year.

Rawlings-Blake noted than more than 90 percent of those killed in the city last year were black, but City Councilman Brandon Scott, who is also vice chair of the public safety committee, said the violence isn’t just limited to the poorest neighborhoods in the city. He also said those individuals affected by the violence reside in all parts of the city and beyond.

“Too many people have died in our town,” Scott said. “Don’t point fingers or go to social media. Everybody has to look in the mirror and ask, ‘What are they doing?’”

Some feel the violence is simply the aftermath of and an extension of earlier riots following the death of Freddy Gray.

Twenty-seven pharmacies in the city were hit during the riots, with thousand of dollars of narcotics and other drugs stolen, producing an influx of illegal drugs on the streets, along with all of the problems which typically come with such activity. But neither local law enforcement or the DEA know the exact amount of drugs that were taken during the riots, partly because all of the pharmacy owners have yet to be interviewed.

And according to a statement from the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, law enforcement are now afraid to do their jobs.

“The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest. Criminals feel empowered now. There is no respect,” the statement said. “Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.”

And some residents are inclined to agree.

“People are doing what they want to do now because they feel that police are not going to come right away like they normally come,” said Rev. Keith Bailey with the Fulton Heights Community Association.

Baltimore City Councilman William “Pete” Welch said it’s imperative that the number of arrests go up.

“We have to make an example of these people who are perpetuating the violence,” he said.

Brenda Murphy, whose 9-year-old son, Eli Ebron, was recently struck by non-fatal gunfire while playing basketball, said she doesn’t know what the solution is, but something needs to change.

“There’s no more I can say, but it needs to stop,” Murphy said. “It needs to stop.”