Baltimore’s jump in homicides in 2013 defies national trends

If New York had Baltimore's murder rate, 3,160 persons would have been killed last year, instead of the 333 recorded by police

anthony batts

“We were responding behind the scenes. We were ready for it,” said Anthony Batts responding to the city’s rising murder toll last June.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

2013 was not kind to Anthony W. Batts, a West Coast transplant who became the city’s police commissioner 15 months ago.

Batts got his first taste of murder Baltimore-style last June when 28 shootings and 10 homicides took place over five days.

He called a press conference and announced that he and his department were ready for any bloodshed.

“I am connected to this organization. I am driving directions almost every single hour,” he told reporters, blaming the shooting spree on gangs battling over turf, random confrontations and the Black Guerrilla Family.

The tough talk did not quell the killings, especially in the Western Police District.

Nor did the hoopla surrounding a $286,000 strategic policing plan requested by Batts and skippered by his longtime friend, ex-LAPD police chief William J. Bratton.

“Bulletmore” Makes a Comeback

Baltimore continued its upward arc of street shootings through the summer and autumn, bucking the trend of plummeting homicides in other cities.

While the final tallies from the FBI won’t be official for many months, a review of publicly-available police stats by The Brew show that Baltimore’s 7.3% rise in homicides in 2013 – from 219 to 235 – is matched only by spikes in Newark, Washington and Indianapolis.

Otherwise, nearly all large U.S. cities – including Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland and Oakland – recorded fewer murders in 2013.

Some hard numbers:

Newark’s 39.7 murders per 100,000 residents in 2013 tops Baltimore’s rate of 37.9. It was an embarrassing year for high-profile Mayor Cory Booker except that Booker is no longer mayor, having recently won the seat of the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in a special election.

Washington’s spike can largely be traced to the 13 people killed at the Navy Yard last September by a single shooter. Even including the mass execution, D.C.’s homicide rate in 2013 was 15.9 deaths per 100,000 – or 2.4 times lower than Baltimore’s.

Philadelphia experienced a whopping 25.6% decline in homicides (247, down from 332 in 2012) and had a murder rate identical to Washington’s.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Batts release the $287,000 strategic plan for policing in November at City Hall (Photo by Mark Dennis, Mayor's Office)

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Batts release the $287,000 strategic plan for policing in November at City Hall. (Photo by Mark Dennis, Mayor’s Office)

Richmond, VA, reported a 12% drop in murders and a 17.6 per 100,000 rate.

Providence, RI, reported a 23% drop in murders and a 7.1 per 100,000 rate.

Boston reported only 40 murders in 2013 – a historic 31% drop. Its homicide rate of 6.2 per 100,000 was six times below that of Baltimore.

Safest Big City

There were 84 fewer homicides in 2013 in New York City, making for a remarkable 3.9 murders per 100,000 residents, according to our calculations of NYPD stats.

If New York had Baltimore’s homicide rate, 3,160 persons would have been killed last year, instead of the 333 recorded by police.

Chicago, the national media’s perennial poster child of gun violence, had a 16% drop in murders last year, t0 415. If Baltimore’s murder rate was transposed to the Windy City, there would be 1,029 deaths in 2013 – something for Anderson Cooper to really frown over.)

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Detroit and Flint, Mich., experienced higher murder rates than Baltimore – but those rates went down in 2013.

Flint, listed by the FBI as America’s most dangerous city in 2012, experienced a 20% decline in homicides, making for 52 murders per 100,000 in 2013. Local media attributed the presence of 40 Michigan State troopers patrolling Flint’s streets as a factor in the crime reduction.

In Detroit, murders fell 13.5% to 332 last year. The city’s murder rate now stands at 47.4 per 100,000, according to Detroit police (who exclude so-called “justified homicides” from their count).

Reductions Elsewhere

In other places with historically high murder rates:

Oakland, Calif. (where Batts served as police chief between 2009 and 2011) a 29.8% drop in 2013, resulting in a 23.6 per 100,000 murder rate.

New Orleans, a 21.7% decline (as of Dec. 20, 2013), making for a 40.8 per 100,000 murder rate (slightly higher than Baltimore’s).

Baton Rouge is projected to have a 26% reduction in homicides in 2012, while incomplete figures indicate a small decrease in Birmingham, AL.

St. Louis reported a preliminary decline of 3%, making for a 34 per 100,000 murder rate.

Cleveland had a 10.3% drop, making for a 23.6 per 100,000 murder rate, while Buffalo recorded 47 murders, or 18 per 100,000.

Indianapolis reported a 26.7% increase in homicides. But a murder rate of 16.8 per 100,000 – less than half the toll in Baltimore.

In Camden, NJ, where a regional police force took over from city police in 2013, the death toll went down by 15%. But with 43.7 murders per 100,000, this small impoverished city remains one of America’s deadliest places.

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  • ushanellore

    The problem with policing is this in America:the police themselves can act like criminals. Citizens have lost faith in the police.

    Racial profiling, shoot first and think later knee jerk reactions, internal investigations of felon officers and reassignment of police miscreants in administrative jobs, cowardly policemen who put their own lives ahead of those of the citizens they are supposed to help, police folks who don’t know the communities they are supposed to police, policemen and women who don’t respond to emergency phone calls in a timely fashion, parolees who violate paroles and parole officers asleep at the wheel even as this is going on, police folks who don’t do meticulous detective work, botched up evidence that leaves prosecutors holding the bag and criminals jaywalking into the sunset, repeat offenders not flagged and put away by police, holding cells themselves flourishing as drug havens, prison guards who are willing to sleep with and procreate with locked up charismatic scoundrels, turf gang wars and brigands of drug overlords who have the upper hand over the police, corrupt police who are caught selling drugs themselves or caught nabbing drugs from the criminals they have arrested, some even accused of forcing the females they arrest into sex acts right in the police stations, police brutality to ordinary citizens, wrong arrests and wrongful deaths of wrongly arrested folks in custody, police folks who abuse their power frequently to the extent that some colluded with a towing company to have cars towed exclusively there–cars that probably didn’t need to be towed–receiving kickbacks for this dastardly deed, police who failed to record and investigate reports of rape–a felony crime as serious as murder–probably because they were lazy, inept, absolutely callous and inured to lousy record keeping and the concept that what didn’t get recorded didn’t need to be investigated.

    My God, I could go on and on. Why doesn’t the crime rate fall in Baltimore? Many of the police themselves behave like criminals. Clean up your act before you clean up the acts of the citizens.

    The response to these accusations is usually that only a small number of police commit these criminal activities and the rest of the police cannot be blamed, that there are so many outstanding men and women in the police force and the entire force cannot be painted with a broad brush. I say, “Really?” The crime statistics indicate to me that the entire force is missing in action.

    • River Mud

      I had many of the same thoughts when O’Malley, AG Gansler and SRB proudly told the public that officers and ex-officers are generally exempt from provisions (including the assault weapons ban) of the massive gun control law that was passed in 2013. “Oh, that’s great! Now we’re safe for sure, since only cops can have assault weapons!” <>

    • Barnadine_the_Pirate

      The BCPD is hardly a model of good policing.
      Nonetheless, the police did not murder 300 people last year. Why doesn’t the crime rate fall in Baltimore? Because there are too many criminals, too many witnesses who won’t testify, too many jurors who won’t convict, too many judges who will go to any length to let criminals out of jail.

      • trueheart4life

        Dumb-downed school curriculum, lead paint poisoning, lack of vocational training, lack of workforce training, lack of JOBS!!! JOBS!!! JOBS!!!

        • ushanellore

          How will we ever have enough jobs when the ethos of the huge monopolies and conglomerates is exploitation and stretching their labor force like rubber bands? There are so many people who need jobs.

          The mega employers think only of profits. They want more and more for less and less pay or else they are willing to relocate anywhere in the world and find folks who will do more and more for less and less pay.

          The textile mill disaster in Bangladesh is but one egregious example of Third World exploitation by US big business. Walmart to Target and the American consumer benefited from this cheap labor but no one took responsibility for the death of many innocent workers in an inferno that occurred because middlemen saw it fit to keep the workers in the work place while a fire raged. Meeting productivity goals was more important than protecting workers.

          Workers’ rights have been systematically excoriated. Neither labor nor management is looking out for the average worker and many gains that labor made in years past are disappearing. With the world population rising, competition for jobs is stifling. There will never be enough jobs for everyone who needs a job in America because small businesses that do a lot of the hiring are chafing under numerous govt. regulations, high taxes and now a health care mandate and big business–a haven of the lobbyists– is laughing all the way to the bank.

          In spite of this bleak picture there is a thriving underground economy comprising of small enterprises that have sprung up all over the country. In cities like San Francisco the tech savvy young are seizing the bull by the horn. They have two or three interesting jobs, they barter, they make money in their leisure time, they innovate in their garages, their software is used to explore space and help folks across the world. It is possible to create your own jobs and your own clientele even in this economy.

          But you are right– education is the key and that is in a dismal way for many kids, whose opportunities are contracted and whose circumstances are adverse and politicians while palling around with their rich donors have no political will to help these disadvantaged children. These children are for ever consigned to eking out a living in the service sector and that sector will be owned by robots soon. The next jobs in America will be in robotics–building, programming, repairing, refurbishing and maintaining the robots.

          Doesn’t look like everyone is poised to benefit from this economy, especially not the kids who are unable to expect the future or train for it.

        • Barnadine_the_Pirate

          Lead paint poisoning is less of a problem in Baltimore than in other cities; it was one of the first cities to ban lead paint, and the State has one of the better lead abatement programs. No matter how good the curriculum is, it doesn’t help if you don’t go to school and graduate. I agree that the absence of jobs that pay enough for a high school grad to support a family is a huge problem — and a factor in the failure of the school system (why go if you’re just going to be an unemployed high school graduate?), but again, this is a problem shared by many other cities with far lower murder rates.
          Comparing Baltimore to New York and Washington is unfair; those cities have giant money-pumps and have reduced violent crime by the simple expedient of sending real estate prices through the roof. But Philadelphia is a fair comparison.

    • KnowNothingParty

      How much blame do you put on the criminals? Any? How much blame to do place on an inner city culture that promotes helplessness, ignorance and shuns education and self reliance.

  • KnowNothingParty

    I spend most of my time in Baltimore City and I haven’t been murdered. Are we sure these numbers are accurate?

  • Day_Star

    Baltimore would benefit from some form of Stop-and-Frisk policing policy, in the short term to reverse trends. There, I said it. Baltimore has 620K people and had 235 murders, while NYC with 8.2 million people had 333. That’s nuts! People don’t like the idea since young black men will disproportionally be searched and feel violated, while suffering under the reality of violent crime and a disproportionate number of young black men being killed, seriously injured, or feeling downright scared. Idealism vs. Realism. What we have in Baltimore is an environment of people flagrantly carrying or pretending to carry weapons; it’s poisoning the social fabric and making people harder. In NYC, if you walk around with your hand at your crotch to keep (or pretend to keep) your handgun from dropping down your pants, you’ll “bring attention to yourself”, while here it’s so common you could call it the Baltimore swagger. If guy ‘A’ thinks guy ‘B’ is carrying, what will that make guy ‘A’ want to do? Simple points of contention lead to thoughts of “I better act first” on a more frequent basis in the City, per capita, than almost anywhere else in America.

  • bmorepanic

    I’m thinking there were “only” 217 murders in 2012.

    • baltimorebrew

      The official number actually was 219. Here are the annual murder numbers since 2000:

      2000 – 261 O’Malley administration
      2001 – 256
      2002 – 253
      2003 – 270
      2004 – 276
      2005 – 269
      2006 – 276
      2007 – 282 Dixon administration
      2008 – 234
      2009 – 238
      2010 – 223 Rawlings-Blake administration
      2011 – 196
      2012 – 219
      2013 – 235

      • bmorepanic

        If I could ask, which official number? Baltimore Sun has 217 names, and so do a couple of other sources like the Baltimore Police.

      • Matthew Riesner

        So with shrinking population, I think it would be fairer to look at the rate instead of the raw number. Raw number says nothing. The per hundred thousand rate is what we need to look at.

  • RickinBmore

    I don’t have any solutions to all of this killing. But as someone who has worked closely with low income populations in Baltimore, I would suggest that an all-out assault on mental health issues would reap long term benefits. I wouldn’t be surprised if something along the lines of 50 to 60 percent of young men in this city suffer from depression. The self-hate that so many young men have is staggering once you see it up close. Its very easy to transfer that hate to those around you, thus making murder an easy solution to just about any problem.

    • River Mud

      Forgive me for jumbling the exact figures here, but the 2011 statistics showed that something like 45% of city murder suspects had previously served prison time for gun felonies, and 70% of those arrested for gun crimes have previously been arrested for gun crimes. These people cannot legally acquire firearms (under new OR old gun laws on the books), but they can and they are on a daily basis, suggesting exactly the type of mental health and community crises you mentioned – the drive to hate, the self-loathing, the lack of feeling like one can make a positive contribution to their own life or their community. Maybe one day our lawmakers will take an interest in a deep discussion about the roots of these issues instead of feel-good legislation banning assault weapons (which are used in approximately 1% of city crimes), and then going to bed at night pretending they solved a problem. Not counting on it, though.

      • RickinBmore

        Correct. You can ban all the guns you want, but if you have a burgeoning population of sociopaths with no hope of treatment, nothing will change. And one more thing – this discussion about mental health needs to be acknowledged in the African-American community. My experience has been that there is an enormous stigma against black men who admit to mental illness or seek out treatment. That has to stop.

        • Day_Star

          We’re talking about a small statistical sample in Baltimore’s crime numbers if we want to blame diagnosable psychopaths or those with schizophrenia, but it’s a good point to be made on general mental health. People can exhibit psychopathic tendencies (ie. an inability to feel empathy or remorse and only care about one’s self interests) if they are raised poorly, aren’t given affection, don’t have positive role models, and grow-up in a violent environment. The scars stay with them. I’m a believer that a good sized portion of the Baltimore population suffer from varying degrees of PTSD from witnessing and/or being the victim of violence and continual intimidation. It causes desensitization, paranoia, and a long list of other symptoms. The need for therapy is ignored by the individual and many of these people develop a completely different outlook on the world and set of values incompatible with being a success in school / vocational training or as an employee. It tortures me when people place primary blame on the government or other people, ignoring collective responsibility. The best long term solution is either to love your children and give them the full attention and wise guidance & discipline they need or PRACTICE BIRTH CONTROL until you’re ready to be a good parent. There’s also empathy training, which is being done in some elementary schools around the country.

          • River Mud

            Dang, this is an actual thought-provoking discussion.

          • Jim Schwalbe

            I also believe the major reason for the high incidence of crime within the black communities is the complete breakdown of the family unit. I have read that something like 70% of black births are out of wedlock. The black men don’t marry the girl because they don’t feel any moral responsibility and in many cases because it is financially better for the girl to be unwed with child, for welfare purposes. If you do not get discipline and moral guidance in your younger years then you will get what the street teaches and for far too many young blacks, that is gangs.

      • Brent Hutchinson

        right, they need to ban ALL firearms completely

        • River Mud

          Problem there being 1) there are already betweeen 100 million and 500 million guns in this country – most of them undocumented, and 2) that the people who we most don’t want to have guns, don’t purchase guns legally anyway. An example from the testimony in the state house (from an FBI agent) last year was in Puerto Rico (which has 100% gun licensing), illegal guns arrive weekly by boat and plane and outnumber legal guns 30 to 1. As long as our government is paying contractors to manufacture millions of guns per year for police and defense (at least some small percentage of which is corrupt), you can bank on a “gun ban” not working. Bottom line – the good guys would follow a ban. The bad guys would ignore it. Much as they ignore murder laws, mandatory minimum sentences, and prohibitions against firing weapons within city limits. They know those rules don’t apply to them and the world they live in. They just apply to you and I.

          • Brent Hutchinson

            I didn’t read that. That many guns come over here? No wonder there’s issues. That’s a really good point, river mud. That makes it impossible to outlaw guns. What’s the point of outlawing them if they still make their way here? good pull.

    • ushanellore

      Depression often results in inaction not action. These men are angry. There is pent up fury against a society they see as having abandoned them. They want revenge. They want attention. They want to shoot havoc into the surface calm. The question is–can society prevent this? If there is PTSD from family interactions, stresses and fissures, society, as a whole, can take remedial action but probably will not succeed.

      The family is where the violence is learned, born and bred and nurtured. The family unit should be treated for true healing. This fracturing of the family unit affects the rich and middle class too and the tide is hard to stem.

      What is fundamentally wrong with our society is that it measures achievement and success by monetary measures and not by ethical standards, innovation, creativity–both artistic and scientific and leisure time spent in simple pleasures. It is a society that lays extraordinary pressures on the human soul. It warps the spirit and the family responds replacing love with infighting and caring with fury. The society looks away as the unit crumbles. The govt. steps into this dysfunction when it is too late. The blind lead the blind and the result is oppositional defiance among young men who don’t know how else to empower themselves.

      Education, innovation and acquisition of knowledge take effort. Murder can be achieved with impulse and blind rage alone. The first is hard. The second easy. Opportunities galore can be presented to children but if they have already learned to use anger as a tool to get attention then they won’t be enchanted by the hard road. The path of least resistance is where they will go.

      Mental illness is both the cause and the effect of our social maladies. Feral young adults can be rahabilitated but the process takes enormous time, effort and money. It can only happen one person at a time. A depleted society has no resources for the painstaking process. Hence the disintegration of our fabric.

      • Gerald Neily

        But why Baltimore above almost all other cities? Why our fabric? The rest of Maryland is doing well, and is pouring its resources into Baltimore. The rest of the east coast is prosperous, other than us and those other two “other side of the river” cities, Camden and Newark. Is Baltimore also doomed to be on the “other side of the river”?

        • RickinBmore

          Baltimore’s median household income of $40,803 puts it ahead of Philadelphia ($37,016), Richmond ($39,445), Wilmington, DE ($39,761) and Providence ($32,058). So, in terms of affluence we are pretty much in the middle of the pack on the East Coast, sitting behind the “Big Boys” of NYC, DC and Boston. So, what makes us different? I think its fairly obvious that the cities at the top of the food chain on the East Coast have managed to transition from an industrial economy to a service/finance economy better than we have (or, in DC’s case, they have the Federal Government to prop up incomes). So, Baltimore’s story is similar to that of St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, etc. etc. Those cities have also struggled with extreme violence in recent years. One more element to all this is Baltimore’s inability to attract new immigrants. Cities that have flourished in recent years have been able to bring in newcomers to reinvigorate their socio-economic mix.

      • green lisa

        Why not a Marshall Plan for our cities instead of spending trillions of dollars in remote, hopeless places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • CityMan

    Remember when Baltimore’s homicide numbers were going down? We used to have well over 300 a year. Single year changes in homicide rates don’t mean much. An increase to previous levels over five or six years might. Baltimore has a homicide problem, but looking at a particular year versus other cities is like asking how a football team that wins the Super Bowl one year can barely break even (if that) the next, or how a team can go from worst to first in a year. It happens. Not usually, but sometimes. Back in the 1990s, when Baltimore County was averaging 25-35 homicides a year, the newspapers and TV reported a particularly large increase one year. Was this a trend? No, it was a crazy guy who blew up himself, his wife and two kids in their car. That alone was responsible for a 10 percent increase. Even in Baltimore City, with 200-plus homicides, the numbers are small enough from a statistical standpoint that relatively large percentage changes can occur without any particular forces being at work.

    • linda garris

      Are you serious? Omg,liberals.anything to distort facts and place blame squarely on anybody but the damn criminals. Why are big cities so bad iver the past 50 yrs. Was the day I could walk down the street in most any neighborhood in philly. Welfare,projects,drugs,kickiing dad out of the home if you wanted to collect welfare. Training single moms instead of helping men with job training. Changing wekfare work requirement. U k.iw,what how many felons do u think are trying to get jobs and can’t? Most come out of jail and back to business as usual. I wish the problem were jobs. As usual msm will blame some white business people for not hiring a criminal,who statistically cause problems on the job. People are afraid but are made to put themselves in danger. What happened to jimmy the greek. Who killed him? He was trying to help the guy with a job. Face it. Drugs bring in more money. And murder.

  • Yarden

    I think many of you made some interesting points. I would like to add more. I don’t think depression is the root of the cause nor drugs nor gangs. I am friends with a Baltimore Crime analysts and you know what he said? The #1 known cause for homicides in Bmore is Anger and disagreements! But considering only something like 17% of homicides are solved, that’s what we know at the moment. As a West Baltimore resident, my community is upset with the police. The lack of respect in the communities for the police cause residents not to talk and more likely taking justice into their own hands. Which we can name a dozen cases of collateral damage..

    When you have a police force that mostly lives in the county, has more internal issues than next door, which is desperately now trying to recruit new officers from Baltimore churches.. In order to get some freaking morality in its ranks, you know there is issues. All this and we have not even touched other crimes such as robberies, thefts, ect. As along our city does nothing to build up these communities and people are to scared to move into them, we will see the status quo for years to come.

  • Matthew Riesner

    I think someone needs to bring up the this trend is not regional and is isolated to this city. Baltimore City has a murder rate 38 per 100,000 and Baltimore County is 2.3 per 100,000 (a rate that is significantly lower than the national average of roughly 4 per 100,000). I think it needs to be said that Baltimore City’s murder rate isn’t slightly higher, not even double but the rate 16 time higher than the next closest county, which deals with it’s fair share of gang and drug activities as well. This difference needs to be seen as multifaceted structural problem that the political and community leadership in this town needs to be ashamed of and acknowledge their failure at remedying. Is it failure to put away criminals? Is it a failure of the police to adequately do their jobs? Is it a failure of the city not to pay the regional going rate for emergency responders so they don’t leave after a few years to other counties that pay them significantly more, while working in safer conditions? Is it failure of the educational system that is supposed to educate the youth to chart a new path for themselves and give them the skill necessary to succeed in the time period that they are growing up in? Is it a multigenerational welfare state the creates a deeply seeded victim mentality that will keep folks from finding work? Is it tax policies that drive out the backbone, tax paying businesses? Is it the city creating policies that drive out the home owning, tax paying middle class (me included)? Is it the city squandering its resources for a short term, short sighted gain? I think the answer is, that it is all of those problems (and other as well)… a systemic failure that can only be remedied by large, almost radical change, by all parties that run this city. We need to stop acting like it is business as usual here and stop being so comfortable with our complacency.

  • Edwin Kappert

    The wire is great show, its all in the game

  • Alyce Beman

    Give people something to believe in, something to live and hope for ….that change constitutes more than some fleeting feelings we get after hearing the Tupac retake on Hornsby. What would Elderidge Cleveland say?

  • Javier Ash

    I think one of the biggest problems in america is we no longer have honest conversations in regard to race,crime,politics,and many more important factors.One thing you have to realize is african american communities never had a good relationship with law enforcement so it makes it even harder to deter or solve crime in african american communities. This country rather spend a huge amount of money on military defense.We as americans need to stand up,embrace each other regardless of race,sexual orientation,or religious beliefs,stop relying on the government and take this country back!!

  • WhoisJohnGalt?

    How is this possible in a state with some of the strictest gun control in the nation?

  • One who cares

    Criminals don’t care about gun laws. They can get any gun when they want without rules. The honest citizen need to be able to defend themselves. They should be able to get a concealed carry permit for self defense. It’s a proven fact that places that have conceal carry have less crime then those taht don’t

  • Dominick Kim

    People in power use morally bankrupt politicians to create and enforce legislation
    To create black market street drugs which turns inner cities into a war zone over control over drug turf. Legalize all drugs and violent crime would drop by 75% across the boaard

  • Lt. Al Giardello

    Where is detective Pembleton when you need him?

  • October 6, 2015

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  • October 2, 2015

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