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Baltimore's Homicide Rate Hits New Per Capita High

The homicide rate in Baltimore is now at its highest rate, surpassing the 1993 level. Here, balloons and candles mark the spot in the city where a man was shot in July.
Patrick Semansky
The homicide rate in Baltimore is now at its highest rate, surpassing the 1993 level. Here, balloons and candles mark the spot in the city where a man was shot in July.

With six weeks left in 2015, the homicide rate in Baltimore has set a new high for the city, surpassing the previous record set in 1993. The city saw its 300th killing of the year over the weekend; since then, gun violence has killed five more people. Those homicides raised "the city's per capita homicide rate — based on the recent population estimate of 622,793 residents — to 48.97 per 100,000 residents," The Baltimore Sun reports.

The previous high was 48.77 homicides for every 100,000 residents, the newspaper adds. That was in 1993, when the city saw 353 killings. The new record is partially a result of the city's smaller population in 2015.

After years of declining homicide rates, Baltimore and many other large U.S. cities, such as Milwaukee and Houston, have seen a dramatic rise in 2015.

As NPR's Scott Simon reported this fall, "Many reasons have been suggested: gang rivalries, the supply of guns on the street and the charge that police officers may now be less aggressive because of heightened scrutiny and outrage from the public over policing in inner-city neighborhoods."

In Baltimore, the homicide rise has come as the city copes with the aftermath of riots and unrest following Freddie Gray's death in police custody. A senior Baltimore Police Department official told member station WYPR that 27 pharmacies and two methadone clinics had been looted in the days after Gray's death, putting 175,000 doses of oxycontin and other prescription drugs on the street — and setting off turf wars between drug dealers.

In August, law enforcement officials from around the U.S. gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss the rise in crime in their cities. They talked about common traits within crime patterns, including the problems of repeat offenders, synthetic drugs and criminals' use of high-capacity gun magazines.

And as Atlanta Police Chief George Turner told NPR's Audie Cornish, another common thread emerged:

"We were able to look at all of our victims and also our perpetrators or suspects of homicides for 2015 in our city. And there was only one individual who has been arrested for felony murder finished high school, and only three of the victims that finished high school. And so when you look at the victims and then you look at the perpetrators, they look the same. They're challenged with having educational skills and also working ability that they can go out and get a legitimate job."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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