By the end of August, 215 people had been murdered in Baltimore, a 56 percent increase over last year. Justin George, a 38-year-old South Asian crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, has followed the city's struggle with violence for three years. Occupying the same position once held by David Simon, the creator of HBO's The Wire, he has gained an up-close perspective on Baltimore's complex dynamics, reports The Trace. George's work has earned him a yearlong fellowship at Marquette University, where he's studying the causes of gun violence.
George says the city’s “problems are systemic … there are 15,000 to 20,000 vacant row homes — entire blocks are vacant. And you don't have jobs. And you have a heroin problem. It's an economic issue, really. The environment of Baltimore can be bleak in a lot of neighborhoods. I'm in Milwaukee now, and people talk about this being a violent town — there's been 100 homicides so far this year. But Baltimore has double that number.” George says that many in Baltimore believe “they're marginalized, targeted, and harassed. All these issues have sort of percolated. Police have to do more than curb violence; they have to get the city on their side. And that's a big struggle. You thought, after the riots happened, that there would be a lull. But that's not what happened. The homicide rate skyrocketed.”