Baltimore’s relentless pace of homicides continues despite calls by residents to end the violence, the launch of a police surveillance plane and the coronavirus pandemic, the Baltimore Sun reports. Approaching the year’s halfway point, more people have been killed than during 2019, which had the highest homicide rate on record. The stay-at-home orders have not abated the killings, even though crime in most other categories has dipped. “The bad actors who are committing murders are still out,” said Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. Baltimore has counted 164 homicides this year, more than 152 last year, when the city eventually saw 348.
The city has a new tool in its efforts to stem violence. A pilot program started in May launched a surveillance plane that flies during daylight hours in an effort to help investigate and track suspects in serious cases and deter would-be criminals. Harrison said the program has not yet led to any arrests, but it has shown some promise. The controversial program has led to the production of 44 “evidentiary packets,” which are forwarded to detectives investigating homicides and other serious crimes. The program will include three planes in a $3.7 million budget funded by Texas philanthropists Laura and John Arnold through Arnold Ventures. The technology is capable of capturing images of 32 square miles of the city for a minimum of 40 hours a week. There have been marked decreases in crime overall this year, including nonfatal shootings, which are down 14 percent from 343 to 287, compared with last year. Robberies have dropped by 20 percent, burglaries are down 23 percent and auto thefts are down 22 percent. City Council President Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee expected to become mayor of a city on pace for a sixth straight year of more than 300 homicides, said more needs to be done to combat the violence.