Baltimore’s homicide rate last year surpassed all of the nation’s largest cities with the exception of Detroit, according to FBI crime statistics issued yesterday, says the Baltimore Sun. Violent crime as a whole in the city was down almost 13 percent in 2006 compared with 2005 and is continuing to drop this year, bucking an increase of 1.3 percent nationally. This year, the city has recorded 128 killings in the first 155 days, putting it on a pace for 300 slayings, a level not seen in Baltimore since 1999. Detroit, with a population of about 884,000, reported 417 homicides last year – making it America’s deadliest large city with a homicide rate of 47 per 100,000 residents. Baltimore, with 637,000 people, had 276 killings last year, giving it a homicide rate of 43. Among cities with fewer than 100,000 people, Gary, In., with 48 killings for 99,000 people led the pack with the highest homicide rate.
Henry Brownstein, a criminal justice researcher at the University of Chicago, cautioned against drawing firm conclusions based on the past two years. “This is the second year that the murder rate’s rising” in Baltimore and nationally, he said. “It’s starting to make people nervous. You really want to wait. It could be an aberration. “After three years it’s a trend,” the analyst said. “It’s harder to turn it around when it keeps happening. One year or two years, it could be a blip. But once it’s three years, you have to look and say, ‘What’s going on in Baltimore? Are there more gangs? How has the drug market changed? Are there a lot more guns on the street?'” Matt Jablow, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, credited the city’s decrease in overall violent crime to law enforcement efforts to target repeat offenders.