The New York Times Magazine explores the “tragedy of Baltimore,” which in 2017 recorded 342 murders, its highest per-capita rate ever, more than double Chicago’s, far higher than any other city of 500,000 or more residents and a larger number of killings than in New York, a city 14 times as populous. Elected officials, from the governor to the mayor to the chief prosecutor, struggled to respond to the rise in disorder since the death of Freddie Gray in a police van in 2015, leaving residents with the unsettling feeling that there was no one in charge. With every passing year, it was getting harder to see what gains, exactly, were delivered by the uprising after Gray’s death.
The violence and disorder have fed broader setbacks. Gov. Larry Hogan canceled a $2.9 billion rail transit line for West Baltimore, defending the disinvestment in the troubled neighborhood partly by noting that the state had spent $14 million responding to the riots after Gray’s death. The Times reviews the many problems plaguing the city’s police department leading up to the appointment of former New Orleans police commissioner Michael Harrison to lead the force. Harrison seems a good fit, someone who knows what it is like to police a violent city. And he came from a department that had been in deep turmoil, after Hurricane Katrina, and was now operating under its own consent decree similar to one in Baltimore.