Earlier this month, Baltimore reached a tragic milestone: The city now has its highest-ever per capita murder rate, with more than a month still left in the year. Across the nation, experts are scrambling to explain just how and why that happened.
The Economist lays out a few theories for why homicides are up 78 percent over last year: Perhaps an influx of drugs stolen from pharmacies during the riot is driving the surge. Or maybe it’s that post-Freddie Gray police-community relations are so bad that Baltimoreans aren’t helping police solve murders, so more murderers are on the streets. Or maybe it’s that the police have simply stopped doing their job in certain (mostly poor, black) neighborhoods.
As Slate notes, we should be careful not to generalize too widely. While Baltimore’s spike of homicides is tragic and alarming, it’s not indicative of a nationwide crime wave. There is no “Ferguson Effect.” On the national landscape, crime is down–way down–from where it was in the 1990s.
But something is clearly going wrong in Baltimore, and it’s hurting the city’s most disenfranchised populations the most. Blaming activists who are agitating for police reform is non-sensical–but, as Leon Nefakh writes in Slate, “the profound trauma that is visited upon communities when they are torn apart by routine acts of murder…should not be denied or played down—and if there’s more of it this year than there was last year in Baltimore, or in St. Louis, or anywhere else, we should call it what it is: a catastrophe that demands our attention.”
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