The Baltimore Police Department and the Mayor's office has released it annual crime report, and the statistics are mixed as to whether 2012 was another step in the right direction. The city's homicide rate rose for the first time in a few years, and this is a cause for concern from the police and the mayor's office. In 2011 the city reported 197 murders, which is still a relatively high number considering the overall population. But last year this number actually rose ten percent to 217 murders, thus assuring that Baltimore will still be talked about with the likes of Detroit, Oakland, and St. Louis as one of the most violent cities in America. Although homicides were up it still may not be fair to lump our city in with the usual suspects of violent places. In fact, 2012 crime statistics of other violent crimes and certain property crimes show just the opposite.
Police Chief Batts and Mayor Rawlings-Blake were quick to point out that in spite of the homicide spike, the total violent crime rate dropped five percent. Total violent crime includes homicide, as well as other criminal offenses such as robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. Overall there were 400 less of these incidents in 2012 as opposed to 2011. Burglary, arson, and theft numbers were also down by about five percent, and there were a total of 1,800 fewer type I crime victims this past year. Type I crime includes all of the above crimes. Gun crime also increased significantly according to the police statistics. 2012 marked the lowest number of non-fatal shootings in the city since statistics records of these incidents began in the year 2000. There was also a six percent decrease in the combined amount of shootings, carjackings, and armed robberies from 2011 to 2012. Gun arrests and gun seizures did not experience a significant change, as police arrested around 1,100 people for gun crimes and seized over 1,800 illegal firearms.
The homicide numbers of Baltimore and Washington D.C. have consistently been measured against one another due to the proximity of the two cities as well as their similarities in popularity. With respect to homicides, D.C. has clearly been trending in a much better direction than its neighbor to the north. Once the murder capital of the country with as many as 470 per year in the early 1990s, D.C. and its police department recently reported 88 homicides in 2012.
Although there is cause for concern over the increased number of Baltimore homicides, this does not necessarily indicate the reversal of a 20 year downward trend. Murder will always take the front page when speaking about crime levels, but as long as police and politicians continue to focus on decreasing violent crime numbers, the murder rate will follow. There is usually a direct correlation between violent crime and gun crime rates to homicide rates, and although this past year appears to be an anomaly only time will tell if the city is truly headed in the wrong direction.
Benjamin Herbst is a criminal lawyer in Maryland who handles all types of violent crimes. Contact Mr. Herbst for a free consultation about your case.
City killings up to 217 as gun violence falls, baltimoresun.com