When Are We Going to Start Feeling Baltimore’s Crime Drop?

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Baltimore's Crime Drop
Does Stephen Colbert’s perception of Baltimore lag behind reality? Image via Comedy Central/Baltimore Sun

A recent article in the Baltimore Sun explores the city’s nagging image problem. Despite a spike in killings last year, violent crime has been steadily declining in Baltimore for a while now. But residents’ perception of crime in Baltimore largely hasn’t changed. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sees it as a case of perception lagging behind reality. She expects it to take time for longtime residents, with their years of seeing Baltimore as unsafe, to feel the difference.

But is a crime rate really all about relativity? Shootings may be down 20 percent from last year, and total reported crime may be down 10 percent. So we are relatively safer, sure. But are we safe yet? As encouraging as the statistics are, you’re not going to see a Baltimore tourism billboard that reads, “Visit Baltimore: Shootings Are Down 20 Percent!” That is to say, an encouraging statistical trend isn’t enough.

I’d venture that this is primarily a case of perception lagging behind reality. More Baltimore residents might begin to feel that the city is safe when it actually is, when the crime drop is not merely encouraging, but life-changing.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts might have it right. His take on the current rate of violent crime: It’s “not where I’m comfortable, nor where I think we should be.”

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