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Homicides in Baltimore reached record high in 2017

January 2, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Homicides in Baltimore reached record high in 2017

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Residents of Baltimore, Maryland are blaming lax policing for last year’s record high homicide rate.

Baltimore reached its highest annual homicides for the third year in a row, with 300 murders per number of residents in 2017.

That equates to roughly 56 killings per 100,000 people in a population that has shrunk over decades.

The city currently has a population of 615,000 inhabitants.

“Not only is it disheartening, it’s painful,” Mayor Catherine Pugh told The Associated Press during the final days of 2017, her first year in office.

Some lawmakers attribute the violence to gangs, the spiraling opioid epidemic, an increase of illegal guns, systemic failures like unequal justice and a deficiency of decent job opportunities.

However, many residents have attributed the record high murder rate in the city to lax policing following high-profile cases of police brutality which garnered nation-wide attention.

Specifically, community leaders claim cops have maintained a reduced presence and have taken a hands-off approach in crime-ridden neighborhoods following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, an African American who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody.

Gray’s death ignited mass protests and the worst rioting in decades throughout the city.

Rev. Kinji Scott, a local pastor and community activist in Baltimore says the opposite needs to happen.

“We wanted the police there, we wanted them engaged in the community. We didn’t want them beating the hell out of us, we didn’t want that,” Scott told NPR.

Scott who’s held positions in local government and other community activists are now calling for police reforms to help reduce the rate of violence in Baltimore and several cities across the U.S. affected by a high crime rate that he says haven’t seen change.

He said those reforms begins with a conversation between the communities directly involved.

“We need the front line police officers and we need the heart of the black community to step to the forefront of this discussion, And that’s when we’re going to see a decrease in crime,” Scott added.

Although arrests have declined to their lowest level in years, law enforcement officials say police are working hard in a tough environment and maintain the overwhelming majority of Baltimore’s crime has long been linked to gangs, drugs and illegal guns.

“The vast majority of our kids and residents of this city aren’t into criminal activity like this. It’s that same revolving group of bad guys that are wreaking havoc for people’s families,” said T.J. Smith, the chief police spokesman whose own younger brother was the city’s 173rd homicide victim in 2017.

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