In Baltimore, this year started with 26 murders in 25 days. Then it got worse. The city is suffering through its bloodiest year in decades, a daily drumbeat of carnage impervious to community outrage and a surge in police deployments, the Washington Post says in an editorial. Maryland’s biggest city is on page to exceed 400 killings this year, in per capita terms, worse even than Chicago. Baltimore was no less troubled from 2008 to 2014, when annual murders never exceeded 250. “So many factors have combined to produce the homicide spree that began in 2015 … that local officials often seem flummoxed in their attempts to unpack the causes,” the Post says.
At least half of each year’s homicide cases are not solved, so killers can assume impunity. The number of arrests has dropped even as murders have skyrocketed, suggesting that the police have continued to retreat, as they did after the riots that followed Freddie Gray’s death two years ago. The police force’s extravagant deficiencies, including pervasive racism, were laid bare in a Justice Department report. Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to derail reforms; Baltimore’s own leaders and police insisted on moving forward with them. In the short term, the outlook is grim, the Post says. The 2015 rioters targeted pharmacies, whose copious supply of opiates flooded the market, fueling competition among vicious gangs that vie for control of the business and have no compunction about settling turf wars with bullets. In May, an organization called Mothers of Murdered Sons called for a cease-fire over Mother’s Day weekend. It didn’t work. Undaunted, a coalition of churches and grass-roots groups has launched a campaign for a 72-hour cease-fire for this weekend. T-shirts, fliers, a website and Facebook page are promoting a peace rally this Friday night, with the slogan “Nobody kill anybody.” That, at least, is a start, the Post says.