I have a friend who likes to say she came to Baltimore for the murders and stayed for the heroin. I’m not sure how many more like her are out there, but they might want to move elsewhere, now that Baltimore has dropped off the list of the nation’s five deadliest cities.
The announcement comes from data compiled by the FBI in 2011 and released this Monday. The city’s murder rate dropped 12 percent last year, with the total number of homicides coming in at 196. That’s an average of 31.3 killings per 100,000 people, which isn’t great compared to Philadelphia (21.2) or New York (6.3), but still an improvement for Baltimore, which saw 282 murders in 2007 alone.
So what are we doing right? More tree cover? Less tree cover? I’d be inclined to look to Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld, who has steadily lowered crime rates in the city since his appointment in mid-2007. Bealefeld, for his part, credited the school system and local parole agents for the decrease in gun violence. He told The Baltimore Sun: “There’s a lot of people that want to stand up and take credit, but the rank-and-file cops are the ones out there every day doing the hard work.”
Baltimore’s still struggling with its sexual assault numbers. 2011 saw 361 reported rapes, more than twice the 146 reported in 2007. A lot of this seems to have more to do with bureaucratic reforms than some wild rape-craze, though — reported rapes have skyrocketed since the government faced accusations in 2010 that city police were disregarding cases at the highest rate in the nation. If nothing else, it’s good to know we’re at least getting something like the honest data now.
Baltimore is Baltimore, and we still have a long way to go before Howard County moms will be okay letting their kids go down to Sonar on a Friday night. But these changes, particularly the psychological effect of dropping off the top-five, are something the city can look on with pride.