BALTIMORE, MD — Charm City was ranked the most dangerous out of the 50 biggest cities in the country, according to a new analysis of crime data. USA Today named Baltimore the most dangerous big city in America this week, but said overall killings fell ever so slightly across the nation.
Baltimore — which had 343 killings — tallied the highest murder rate per capita with about 56 homicides per 100,000 people. And unlike the trend nationally, Charm City saw an increase in the number of murders.
There were 343 homicides in Baltimore in 2017. The previous year, there were 318 homicides in Baltimore, meaning last year there were 25 more.
“Where they rank us is very alarming,” Commissioner Designate Darryl De Sousa said on the C4 Show. He added: “But I know Baltimore in another way…I know the moms and dads that struggle each and every day that try and make the city better.”
A new violence reduction initiative that he and Mayor Catherine Pugh are implementing has already paid off, he said; homicides are down 37 percent and nonfatal shootings are down 46 percent as of this time in 2017, he said Tuesday.
There have been 32 homicides as of Feb. 20, 2018, according to the Baltimore Police Department; at this time last year, police reported there had been 47 homicides.
Crime is “trending downward in every single category” in 2018, Pugh said at a Tuesday press conference.
The mayor described Baltimore’s violence prevention initiative as “very data-driven.”
Said Pugh: “Are we satisfied yet? No. Are we trending in the right direction? Yes.”
According to USA Today, the largest spike in homicides in the U.S. last year was in Columbus, Ohio, with 143 slayings — that was 37 more than it saw in 2016.
Chicago had the most killings overall last year with 650, but that number represented a drop from the previous year, when the city had 762 murders.
Other cities high on the murder-per-capita list include New Orleans, Detroit, Memphis and Kansas City. Each had killing rates of at least 30 per 100,000 residents.
The FBI hasn’t released its annual crime report, so the analysis was based on an “early review” of police department crime data, according to USA Today.
Homicides fell in the country’s largest cities by 2.3 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, the review revealed. The steepest drops were seen in Chicago, New York City and Houston, which each saw double-digit percentage drops, the analysis found.
New York City’s yearly killing total dropped below 300 for the first time and the city saw its lowest per capita homicide rate in nearly seven decades. Peter Scharf, a criminologist at the LSU School of Public Health and Justice, told USA Today the success was attributable to focusing efforts on the correct neighborhoods, as well as spending on predictive analytics and technology.
In Baltimore, the police department is seeing a similar ramp-up of technology and strategy already paying off.
State, local and federal officials have arrested more than 200 violent repeat offenders in recent weeks on outstanding warrants, De Sousa said on the C4 Show Tuesday. The city’s violence prevention strategy is about “putting resources in the right places at the right times,” he said.
“We know our problematic areas,” said De Sousa, who proposed created a roving district that focuses on areas where violence is occurring.
Dr. Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, a criminology expert and professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, tells Patch that readers shouldn’t put too much stock into “dangerous city” rankings.
“We kind of throw around these rankings and it makes it sound like everyone is equally vulnerable to violence, when really, in most cities, especially a city like Chicago for instance, violence is mostly concentrated in areas that are most socially neglected. Areas with the highest rates of poverty. Failing schools.”
Major American cities with high levels of segregation, poverty and inequality will often see high rates of violence, she says. But crime statistics and rankings don’t paint an accurate picture of where that violence actually happens. Violence is concentrated within communities, and individual blocks within neighborhoods see vastly different levels of violence than others, she says.
“Literally, one side of the street will have less crime in the same neighborhood than the other side of the street,” she says.
Criminologists are looking into what’s behind such violence gaps and have found that it could be rooted in politics. Some streets receive social programs and rehabilitative services — such as violence prevention and job screening — but individuals on the opposite side of the street might be neglected.
“The rankings, while great for click-thrus, don’t really tell us the complex nature of how violence is impacted in some ways by social conditions, poverty, and other types of complex variables,” she says. “It’s never equally distributed throughout a city.”
The Baltimore Sun also noted that while the USA Today analysis covered the 50 largest cities, one that did not make the cut with its population of 315,000 and murder rate of 65 per 100,000 people was St. Louis, which had 205 homicides.
Click here to read the full rankings from USA Today.
—By Elizabeth Janney and Dan Hampton
R.I.P. is written on an abandoned building near where a man was recently murdered on Feb. 3, 2018, in Baltimore. Community members have created Ceasefire events calling for peace for a 72-hour period and holding numerous events, including peace walks, movie screenings and a youth basketball tournament among other gatherings. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)