Baltimore mayoral candidates respond to record homicide rate

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The death on Dec. 31 of a man shot two weeks earlier marked the 348th murder in Baltimore last year, the highest homicide rate — 57 per 100,000 residents — on record.

The final weeks of the year were especially deadly, with a mass shooting injuring seven people, the murder of a mother-of-four in the deli where she worked, and the murder of a hair salon owner in her shop. Two days before the close of 2019, four men were shot, and three killed, in a North Baltimore house.

The city’s destructive violence has become the number one issue of the mayoral primary, just over three months away, as residents, business leaders, clergy and others demand solutions and a change in direction to reduce the bloodshed. 

City Council President and mayoral candidate Brandon Scott will announce today his “public safety plan” at a press conference. 

The plan, according to a statement, focuses on violent repeat offenders, sharing data and information across agencies, building community trust, and reforming patrol operations, with a goal of reducing homicides by 15 percent per year.

“We deserve to live in neighborhoods that are safe and secure,” Scott said in the statement, “where the public health of our communities comes first and where our children can grow and thrive,” he said in the statement.

Former federal and state prosecutor and candidate for mayor Thiru Vignarajah, whose campaign has focused heavily on crime, issued a statement on New Year’s Day addressing the high murder rate.

“No issue will be more pressing or paramount for Baltimore’s next mayor than violent crime. If we end the bloodshed, everything will change; if we don’t, nothing will,” said Vignarajah.

Underscoring how the city’s violence continued through the holiday season, State Sen. Mary Washington, who announced her mayoral candidacy this fall, attended a vigil for victims of gun violence on New Year’s Eve.

“On the heels of one of the worst years for violent crime in Baltimore, Sen. Washington stands with the community to remember the victims of gun violence. We must show our communities that we are highly motivated in ending this epidemic, and we will do so by holding violent offenders accountable while also addressing the ways in which the trauma from this violence is fracturing our communities,” Washington said in a statement.

Mayor Jack Young also addressed the problem at a press conference on Monday.

“This problem is what keeps me up at night. It is the first thing I think of when I wake up each morning,” he said at the press conference.

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that only 32 percent of murders had been cleared in 2019.

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