Last Sunday, I watched as my 13-year-old daughter pored over the interactive, electronic map of Baltimore City, courtesy of Baltimoresun.com, that showed exactly where each shooting and stabbing had occurred over the past year. “Hmm. These are pretty close to where we live,” she said with cool detachment, as if she were studying for a geography test.
Although there were no fancy, clickable maps of Baltimore murders when I was young, I vaguely recall taking note of the homicide numbers in the newspaper at the end of each year. As of the last Sunday in December, this year’s number was up to 234. I’m sure there were a few more added by the end of the year.
As many major cities report downward trends in violent crime, Baltimore’s murder rate rises. “Lost Year for Fight against Violent Crime” read a headline in the Baltimore Sun last Sunday. The bodies are found behind broken-down row houses, floating in the harbor, and in plain sight. Most victims knew their assailant. Some, like the little boy not yet two years old who got caught in a spray of bullets intended for his father last May, didn’t.
We see the maps. We hear the reports. And after a while, whether adult or child, we become numb to the violence that rips, daily, through this city we call home. Until it hits too close to home.
For years, I’ve been on the email list that reports crimes and attempted crimes in our neighborhood. The emails typically consist of news regarding attempted car break-ins, followed by reminders to lock car doors and refrain from leaving purses in plain sight. Though it’s sort of creepy to think that while I and my family are asleep someone is mere feet away, peeking in my car and trying to open its doors, it never gives me too much pause. But the email I got this week, describing a forceful entry and burglary, did.