Violent crime ticks up in February and March, but still down from 2017

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Last night at 10 p.m., Deon Garner, 26, was fatally shot in Coppin Heights at the corner of Westwood and Moreland avenues. His murder marked Baltimore’s ninth homicide for the month of March, and the city’s 20th killing in 30 days.

At a press conference on Feb. 14, Mayor Catherine Pugh pointed to a monitor displaying crime statistics from the Baltimore Police Department, highlighting steep drops in violent crime and property crime from 2017.

In the nearly five weeks since, those drops have narrowed, though crime rates are still down from the year before.

The total number of homicides, 51, has fallen 28 percent from 2017. That drop was higher, at 36 percent, on Valentine’s Day.

BPD spokesman T.J. Smith said non-fatal shootings now stand at 93 as of this morning. That’s a 31 percent reduction from 2017, but also a 15-point cut into the reduction reported at Pugh’s Feb. 14 press conference, when the drop stood at 46 percent.

The spreadsheet shared on Feb. 14 noted incidents of rape had dropped 29 percent from the year before. But as of March 10, the most recent date for available Comstat data, police had recorded just one fewer rape case than in 2017, marking a 2 percent reduction.

The March 10 cutoff indicated violent crime was down 23 percent from 2017. Property crime had dropped 21 percent as of March 10.

Smith noted in an email that “crime ebbs and flows when you are looking year over year,” and said that “when looking at so small of a window, it’s important to look beyond the numbers.”

As an example, he pointed to January 2016, when it snowed significantly and the city recorded 14 homicides, compared to January 2017, when police tallied 32 homicides. (Baltimore ultimately suffered 318 homicides in 2016, and 342 in 2017, for reference.)

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday morning to a request for comment on the more recent trends.

In Feburary, Pugh credited Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa’s Violence Reduction Intiative (VRI), which sends more police officers to homicide-concentrated areas of the city, and the emergent Baltimore Ceasefire movement, which is now planning its fourth anti-violence weekend for May 11-13. The last one featured dozens of community-building events around the city. It ended with zero fatal shootings, and sparked a nearly two-week-long period with no killings.

Pugh also attributed the crime drop to a host of local organizations and city agencies working at the community level: “All of these efforts, all of these groups, all of these organizations, all of these members of communities have made a big difference in getting us to where we are.”

Smith added that the BPD under De Sousa has launched “‘All-Out’ details that feature a surge of officers on the street at the times and locations that we have historically seen violence,” and conducted warrant initiatives with partner agencies targeting repeat violent offenders.

Remarking on the more recent numbers, Smith said the department will continue to monitor “single digit percentage” increases in crime rates “to ensure it’s not a trend.”

“We are certainly doing everything we can to identify trends and patterns that could lead to such shifts,” he said. “We remain committed to our plan to focus on areas, days of the month, and more globally, our collective efforts as a government to pull all of [our] resources together to effect areas that could be prone to violence.”

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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