Baltimore saw fewer killings last year than any other in the past two decades, but data released this week show the city’s homicide rate ranked the highest among the nation’s cities with a population of more than 500,000, reports the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore experienced 37 homicides per 100,000 residents last year, ahead of Detroit, which had 34 per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by the FBI. While the District of Columbia was not included in FBI data, it appears to rank third, with about 31 killings per 100,000 residents. No other city with a population of more than 500,000 came close; Philadelphia had the next highest rate, with 22 homicides per 100,000 people.
When smaller cities with a population of at least 100,000 are included, Baltimore ranks No. 3, trailing New Orleans (57) and St. Louis (47). Baltimore leaders are struggling to combat a perception that the crime rate has not improved; national figures show that relative to other large cities, progress is less dramatic. Last year’s figures came amid a national trend that has seen violent crime fall across the U.S., including a 4.4 percent decline in homicides. Police say many of the Baltimoe killings have ties to the city’s persistent drug trade, and victims and suspects are likely to be young black males with criminal records. The FBI cautions against using its data to rank cities, and Baltimore’s status at the top among the largest cities may be in question. In January, the Detroit News reported that there were 344 killings there in 2008, but the total submitted to the FBI was 306.