Twenty-six-year-old Julian Jones traveled to Toronto this past weekend to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding with friends. But in a tragic turn early Saturday morning, he was assaulted and beaten to death outside a bar in what police called an “unprovoked attack.”
The investigation of Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota’s murder took a new turn this week after police say an unknown assailant killed a person of interest in the case.
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.
This map by the mysterious “cham101” makes an elegant argument using nothing but data: Baltimore’s homicides tend to happen in neighborhoods with high vacancy rates. Of course, we all already knew that — but seeing it all mapped out like this makes it even more clear. Click here for a bigger version.
As residents were preparing for a long weekend of barbecues and services for those who died in war, a 16-month-old boy in Cherry Hill was added to the list of fatalities in the ongoing war that is Baltimore’s outrageous murder rate. The shooting, which also critically injured the boy’s father, inaugurated a weekend of violence that saw at least 12 shot. The holiday weekend typically comes with a spike in shootings, but this year eclipses the particularly bloody Memorial Days of 2012, when eight people were shot, and 2010, when nine people were.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake promised to “continue to focus our efforts on repeat violent offenders and illegal guns.” City Councilman Brandon Scott echoed the thrust of the mayor’s sentiments and said, “The people who get shot and shoot people are the same people over and over.”
I guess I’m just the bearer of upsetting news today. Brace yourself, because this is a sad one: Last month, 26 year-old Robert Saylor (who has Down syndrome) went to watch Zero Dark Thirty with a health aid at a movie theater in Frederick. After the movie ended, Saylor refused to leave the theater — he loved the film so much he wanted to see it again, according to his mom. The movie theater called the cops; the cops wrestled Saylor to the floor, where he suffered “a medical emergency.” This week, the Baltimore County Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.
On Tuesday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake drew attention to the lack of violence at local summer events Sailabration, Artscape, and the Grand Prix to counter claims (such as Del. Patrick L. McDonough’s bigoted rant in May) that our tourist-attracting Inner Harbor is a dangerous place to be. She called out those who “wrongly bash” the city, and pointed to these events as “showcas[ing] the truth about Baltimore.”
You may not have noticed a difference, but Baltimore has been getting safer, at least if judged by the homicide rate.
As of December 23, Baltimore has seen “only” 194 murders this year, so it’s possible that the city will finish the year with fewer than 200, making it our least violent year since at least the 1980s.
City officials would like to take credit for the decline, but Baltimore’s drop is probably better understood as part of a trend we’re seeing across the country. It’s a trend that’s been moving steadily. Baltimore in 2010 saw 223 homicides, at the time the lowest number since 1985.