Baltimore’s murder total is moving back toward the 300-a-year level, says Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith. “It’s drug-related, of course,” Smith writes. “But we have to start thinking outside the drug box, outside the gun control box, outside the bad-guys-killing-bad-guys box, outside all the usual boxes.” If we don’t know how murderers think, we aren’t going to stop the action that thinking inspires. It’s possible, of course, maybe even likely, that there’s not much that passes for thinking.
The dead are overwhelmingly black – 150 of 160 in the city so far this year. They’re male and young: 85 were 24 years old or younger; 19 were 10 to 17 years old. Three were under 10. Of the 160 victims, 51 were shot in the head. Accounts in the newspaper read like executions. No one gets shot once, it seems. In 114 of 160 cases, no motive could be established. How much killing is there for killing’s sake?
Says Philip Leaf of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence: “Drugs are [in every U.S. city], but not the same level of killing. Something else is going on here.” David Miller, who runs Youth Links, an outreach program, offers this: “Hurt people hurt back. In many communities, you have adults who were victims of trauma as children. We have large numbers who have lived this cycle. Violence has become an integral part of their lives. Violence is as integral for them as going to Starbucks for others.”