A startling jump in the percentage of murder victims who were shot in the head in recent years could explain why Baltimore’s homicide rate hasn’t fallen nearly so precipitously as the number of total shootings, reports the Baltimore Sun. Police say the data indicate an increasing number of close-range, execution-style shootings. “I don’t think they all got to be better shots over the years,” said Maj. Terrence McLarney, chief of the homicide division. “Not only are they hitting them in the head, but we can tell from the transference of gunpowder and other indicators that they’re getting close enough to effect that shot.”
Police believe an overwhelming majority of the city’s homicides are related to the drug trade, and closer shots would mean fewer drive-by killings or indiscriminate spraying of bullets that can injure bystanders. In 1998, 69 of the city’s 313 murder victims were shot in the head, about 22 percent. Of the 238 people killed in 2009, 116 were shot in the head – nearly half. “These are targeted. If, say, someone resisted a robbery on the street and it went bad and a suspect decided to shoot them, hitting them in the head is probably not going to occur,” McLarney said. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University theorized that youth violence-prevention efforts and smarter policing might be deterring “guys who are knuckleheads and think they’re tough, but don’t have the anti-social makings of a murderer. These guys might have access to a gun and pop off some rounds when provoked, but wouldn’t necessarily plan and carry out an assassination, but the more hard-core criminals, who typically grow up in inhumane environments, with neurological deficits to boot, have been less responsive to these efforts.” More close-range, targeted shootings could explain why the homicide rate remains stubborn in light of more significant reductions in gun crime. The drop in total shootings is part of a nationwide phenomenon involving gun crime that stretches back to the mid-1990s.