The number of arrests in Baltimore declined last year while the likelihood of dying from a shooting in the city remains among the highest in the nation, reports the Baltimore Sun. Police released preliminary year-end crime statistics for 2016. Baltimore struggled with a homicide total above 300 killings for the second year in a row. The city’s 318 homicides last year were 26 fewer than 2015 but still the most since 1997. The total number of people shot in Baltimore last year — 938 — was just 60 fewer than New York, a city nearly 14 times more populated. Total arrests fell 7 percent compared with 2015.
Police, union, and city officials partly attributed a decrease in arrests after the in-custody death of Freddie Gray in 2015 to a hesitancy some officers felt that using force could lead to their prosecutions. Arrests rebounded months later, and former Deputy Commissioner Tony Barksdale doubts that hesitancy continues to be a factor, citing an increase in gun seizures the last two years. If officers were hesitant, Barksdale said they wouldn’t be putting their lives at risk arresting suspects carrying illegal guns. Instead, he believes that the department’s patrol ranks are too thin and should be beefed up with officers devoted to other causes such as community policing or relations. “We’re in a fight,” he said. “Public safety comes first.”