Baltimore’s 300th Killing This Year: A Violent Milestone in a Riot-Scarred City

Peter Hermann and John Woodrow Cox, Washington Post, November 14, 2015

A 27-year-old man who was fatally stabbed Saturday evening became Baltimore’s 300th homicide victim this year, a gruesome milestone for a city that has struggled to curb rampant violence of a kind not seen since the 1990s.

Four hours later, the tally reached 301.

The man who became No. 300 was found with torso wounds about 4:45 p.m. on West Baltimore Street, police said. The next victim, a 22-year-old man, was found shot in the chest on Annapolis Road just after 9 p.m..

The swelling death count has both disturbed and confounded a community still struggling to recover from riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray in April.

“Three hundred lives wasted,” said Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. “All those people had potential.”

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Homicides have risen in several U.S. cities this year. In the District, 143 people have been killed, up from 90 at this time in 2014.

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Baltimore last recorded this many homicides in 1999, ending a decade-long run that branded the city as one of the nation’s most deadly. “Fewer than 300 homicides at last,” a Baltimore Sun headline proclaimed in 2001 about the previous year, which ended with 262 killings.

The number dipped to 197 in 2011, creating a new threshold for measuring the vitality of a city that in the 1990s–amid unprecedented violence fueled by an epidemic of crack and heroin use–lost residents who feared for their safety.

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The police union has complained that the aftermath of the riots, during which they say officers were ordered to “stand down” amid the mayhem, has allowed the violence to swell. In part because the six officers were charged in Gray’s death, the union said, the 3,000-member force is so demoralized that many are afraid to confront criminals.

That “Ferguson Effect” has been debated from the police union halls to the upper reaches of the FBI as officials sort through a trying year for law enforcement.

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