Baltimore, which has by far the highest per-capita homicide rate among biggest U.S. cities, is on track to have its worst year on record, the Wall Street Journal reports. More than 300 people have been killed this year. Home to 615,000 people, the city has recorded more killings this year than either the much larger New York or Los Angeles. While Chicago has had more homicides, Baltimore is No. 2. A homicide detective was fatally shot on duty just after Mayor Catherine Pugh said, “Violence in the city is out of control.”
Officials say the violence is being driven largely by gun-wielding gangs warring over drug turf. Police have stepped up patrols and are working with other city agencies. Officials say they don’t know why criminals have been emboldened. Local communities are fighting back. Activists have called for a citywide ceasefire, organized a peace walk and held a candlelight vigil at which people read aloud the names of those murdered this year. Erricka Bridgeford, 45, a Baltimore native, has gone to many funerals for homicide victims. In 2007, one was for her brother, who was killed in a shooting. She has also lost a stepson and “countless cousins” to the violence. Bridgeford, a professional mediator, helped organize Baltimore Ceasefire, weekend-long consciousness-raising efforts that were held in August and early November. Bridgeford said she was encouraged that several participants heeded advice such as working to have their criminal records expunged or seeking drug treatment. Most murder victims are African-American men. Shootings happen largely in areas where residents live surrounded by poverty, unemployment, drug addiction and crime.