A Baltimore man named Wilbur Street was shot in 1982 but the bullet didn’t kill him. He developed a seizure disorder and died this year. The way his death is counted is another demonstration of how we tally violence is convoluted, if not just plain wrong, says Baltimore Sun crime blogger Peter Hermann. Street is counted as the city’s 195th homicide victim of 2010.
When we look back on the year and say that this many people were killed, let’s remember that at least one — and there’s several every year — are from violence that occurred nearly three decades ago. The number is misleading if you want to judge violence this year. Street’s shooter already has been convicted and served 15 years in prison. Street’s death has to be counted some place, and constantly adjusting numbers from years past doesn’t make much sense. The name goes on the homicide board when it’s ruled a homicide. Just as Street’s death gets counted this year, adding to the total, others do not make it. Killings that occur in the state-run prison system in the city are investigated by state police, and don’t go on the list. Likewise for killings along highways investigated by the Maryland Transportation Authority police. Justified killings — whether by police or civilians — don’t go up.