How Baltimore Tries to Cut Its High Homicide Toll

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Seven students at Baltimore’s Excel Academy have been murdered in 15 months. The school is a grim reflection of the difficulties facing Baltimore, the New York Times reports. Last year, the city had the highest murder rate in its history, and by far the highest among the nation’s 30 largest cities. Even Chicago, which has shared Baltimore’s notoriety for violence, saw homicides fall last year, while Baltimore’s numbers continue to rise. Nobody is sure what to do about it. City officials are experimenting with almost anything that might whittle down last year’s homicide total of 343. The city is adding to a network of more than 750 high-definition cameras that follow people as they walk down streets. Probationers and parolees are getting checked on more often. Recreation centers and libraries have expanded hours.

Mayor Catherine Pugh convenes monthly meetings with community leaders from the city’s most troubled neighborhoods to discuss anti-violence strategies. City Hall has ordered every agency to undertake initiatives to reduce crime, like installing street lighting and clearing vacant lots. The mayor requires department heads to attend daily meetings where they discuss not only the previous day’s murders but the best way to board up abandoned buildings. It is unclear whether the strategies are working: There were nine killings during the first 12 days of 2018. The first weekend in January, there was only a single homicide. “Three days, one murder — that’s no accident,” said police commissioner Kevin Davis.  Police say the vast majority of homicides are retaliatory and committed by repeat offenders. Last year’s victims had an average of 11 arrests each. Almost half had been arrested in connection with violent crimes and nearly three-quarters on drug charges. The suspected killers had similar rap sheets, though they had been arrested fewer times on average than the victims.

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