Posted on January 6, 2022

Baltimore Tried New Ways to Stop the Violence in 2021, but Homicides and Shootings Remain Frustratingly High

Justin Fenton et al., Baltimore Sun, January 1, 2022


Yet another year with more than 300 killings in this city.

The past year brought plenty of changes to the crime fight in Baltimore, with a new mayor, stability in the police command, and new efforts to heal the trauma of gun violence and free up officers to catch the men who pull the triggers.

Only, the amount of violence didn’t budge.

The city recorded slightly more homicides and nonfatal shootings as 2020. On Saturday morning, police put the number at 337 homicides in 2021 compared to 335 in 2020; nonfatal shootings at 728 in 2021,, 721 in 2020. That’s about a 1% increase in both.

It marks the seventh straight year that Baltimore, despite a shrinking population, has exceeded 300 killings. Violence jumped in 2015 and has persisted ever since. Other cities are now following. Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. report spikes in violence this year. Those cities saw the most homicides in decades.

Baltimore’s pace of killings have remained strikingly consistent, though city leaders are finding reasons to be hopeful. The homicide clearance rate has inched up in the last three years: 32%, 39%, 42%. Police are arresting more people for the killings, however slightly.

{snip} Police Commissioner Michael Harrison noted reductions in street robberies and property crime.

“When you put it all together, we have made improvements,” Harrison said.

He acknowledged the revolving door at City Hall — Harrison was appointed by former Mayor Catherine Pugh and served under her replacement, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, before current Mayor Brandon Scott — has slowed work to stem the violence. Harrison said crime will improve only after minds and attitudes change.

“We’re just getting started,” Harrison said. “It is frustrating, but we’re changing the culture of a city.”

The police commissioner has blamed the violence on a tendency of Baltimore’s men to reach for guns to settle disputes. For example, two men are charged with murder for allegedly gunning down a shuttle bus driver after an argument at a bus stop last January.


Mayor Brandon Scott has called the continued bloodshed a historical problem, arguing that quick fixes of the past worsened problems today. Scott sought to lay groundwork this year, creating task forces and allocating money for “trauma-informed care” and violence intervention programs such as Safe Streets. He set a goal of reducing homicides by 15% annually. That would put the toll below 290 deaths.

Scott told The Baltimore Sun he was “pissed off” that gun violence continues unabated, and he shares the feelings of impatience.


The mayor’s anti-violence strategy calls for, among other things, nearly tripling the city’s violence intervention programs, increasing efforts to catch gun traffickers and honing a group violence reduction strategy to locate the people most likely to be shot or do the shooting.

He insisted Thursday these strategies are correct, calling this a “foundation-building” year and encouraging families to look for results in 2022.


As mayor-elect Scott had promised to form a committee to explore ways to shift money from the police department to services that could address root causes of the violence. But with preparations for his second budget underway, no such committee exists.

Scott’s first budget funded the Police Department at about the same level, neither decreasing it — much to the frustration of activists — nor increasing it beyond cost-of-living raises.

Nonetheless, Gov. Larry Hogan has decried a “defunding” of police in Baltimore, leveling pointed criticism at State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in particular. Mosby shot back last week, blaming lapse supervision by state parole and probation agents for recent acts of violence.