The annual number of killings in Baltimore has fallen below 200 for the first time in more than three decades, the Baltimore Sun reports. Though Baltimore is still among the most deadly cities per capita, the drop extends an overall downward trend in gun violence since 2007, the year Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld took office. The 196 slayings in 2011 were the fewest since 1977; in 2010, 223 people were killed.
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said the homicide count falling under 200 is “a very big deal.” While criminologists can’t agree on what’s driving the declines, local officials say they deserve credit for taking out violent drug organizations from top to bottom and breathing heavily down the necks of other known offenders through a policy of “targeted enforcement.” Various agencies — from parole and probation to schools to federal prosecutors — are working together more closely than ever before, officials agree. As cities saw unprecedented drops in recent years, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, and St. Louis seemingly were unable to stem the violence. This year, Baltimore and St. Louis saw large declines; Detroit and New Orleans saw big increases.