When two brothers in their 20s were gunned down as they walked along a Baltimore street last Thursday, it pushed the city’s homicide total for last year up to 278. That made 2004 Baltimore’s deadliest year since 1999, in stark contrast to Mayor Martin O’Malley’s 1999 campaign pledge to reduce homicides to 175 a year. Baltimore’s homicide tally climbed in 2004 for the second consecutive year. Because of so-called intelligence-driven policing, agencies are compiling huge databases on everything from where a crime was committed to where victims suffered fatal wounds.
Acting Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm said the homicide total is only one measurement for determining quality of life for Baltimore residents, he has acknowledged it remains a high-profile barometer of violent crime. Mayor Martin O’Malley stressed that the city has reduced violent crime, even as the number of homicides has risen the last two years. More than 300 people a year were killed in Baltimore during the 1990s, but the number dropped to 261 in 2000 and to 253 in 2002 before rising to 271 in 2003. Last year’s total represents an increase of seven homicides over 2003. The centerpiece of the plan to reduce killing is a weekly meeting where commanders review binders crammed with more than 400 pages of data and crime maps.