A slight increase in homicides this year uderscores a troubling trend that leaves Baltimore standing virtually alone among major American cities, says the Baltimore Sun. Since 1990, Baltimore’s homicide rate, the number of killings per 100,000 residents, has stayed consistently high, while most other U.S. cities have seen their numbers drop in the years since crack cocaine-related crime was at its worst. As of Saturday, there have been 282 homicides in Baltimore this year, resulting in the highest rate in 8 years. “Baltimore has a singularly challenging street scene, and that’s what makes it so dangerous and so resistant to crime-fighting steps that seem like they should work,” said criminologist David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Many cities have felt the effects of deindustrialization, poverty, the flight of the middle class, struggling schools and drugs. But few cities, Kennedy and other experts say, have had to contend with those problems in tandem with unrelenting, multi-generational heroin addiction. “It’s outrageous, what we tolerate,” said Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy. Last year, the Baltimore homicide rate was second only to Detroit. Smaller cities like Oakland and Newark, continue to struggle in a way similar to Baltimore. Experts who study crime trends say there is no one explanation, instead offering up such factors as the prevalence of heroin, the breakdown of families and communities, inconsistent policing strategies, and a dearth of jobs and drug treatment. “We’re a smaller city, and there’s simply a larger percentage of folks involved in nefarious business,” said Richard C. Fahlteich, who retired last year after 33 years with the Baltimore Police Department.