Robberies Increasing in Baltimore amid Broader Surge in Violence

Kevin Rector, Baltimore Sun, August 15, 2015

Jordan Black had just left work at the downtown Hilton hotel and was walking home to Camden Crossing late Wednesday, when he felt a hand grab him from behind.

“He grabbed my shirt and then turned me into his punch,” the 25-year-old said, recalling the way the mugging began. “Two other guys jumped in and just whaled on me for a little bit, and I kind of went to the ground for defensive measures just to block. And that’s when they started kicking.”

A few months earlier, 26-year-old Ezra Winter experienced a similar, “well-rehearsed” robbery in Mount Vernon. “As soon as the guy was next to me, I knew what was going on, but they were good,” he said. “The guy cornered me, and behind me were the other two.”

Black and Winter were left black-eyed and battered.

Across Baltimore, similar incidents have been occurring with increasing frequency, according to city crime data–and fewer are being solved.

Even as a spike in killings has grabbed headlines, the number of robberies–taking someone’s property through the use or threat of force–stands at what is at least a five-year high. Robbery clearance rates, meanwhile, are at a five-year low. By the end of July, the most recent data available, there were 2,411 street, commercial and residential robberies and carjackings, 400 more than in the comparable period last year.

And though killings have mainly been located in neighborhoods historically steeped in violence, the spate of robberies has hit a broader swath of the city–sparking concern in places such as downtown and Charles Village.

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Detective Jeremy Silbert, a police spokesman, said several factors, including the civil unrest in April, have contributed to the increase in robberies, and police have “seen an increase of juveniles working in groups” to rob people on the street. “Barbershops and beauty salons have also been targeted over the past month.”

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As of Friday afternoon, the robbery clearance rate for 2015 stood at 12.7 percent, police said. Full-year robbery clearance rates ranged from 21.6 percent to 30.5 percent over the past five years.

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City statistics show that on average, street robberies make up about two-thirds of all robberies in Baltimore–and often involve guns.

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Across from the community center is a playground, but the center doesn’t use it because it has been taken over by drug dealers and others who target outsiders passing through, Alston said.

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Winter doesn’t know what to think after being robbed in the 300 block of St. Paul St. and losing his iPhone.

He has lived in more dangerous neighborhoods and never had a problem, so maybe getting jumped was “karma,” he said–as if his time had come. He doesn’t condone his attackers’ actions, but realizes that some people in Baltimore are dealing with a socioeconomic situation akin to living in “a Third World country.”

Still, the experience has left its mark.

“I think I want to buy a rowhome and I’m not sure I want to do it in Baltimore,” he said. “That incident certainly didn’t help.

“I don’t know that many people who have been here long who haven’t been a victim of violence. So maybe I’m paying $300 a month less in rent [if I stay in Baltimore], but every few years I’m going to get the [expletive] kicked out of me.”

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