Good news. Baltimore’s murder rate declined 10 percent in 2018, with 309 killings versus 342 for all off 2017. However, the scope of violence overall continues to plague the city’s neighborhoods and our reputation.
This month will mark one year since USA Today caused a local uproar and brought national scorn upon Baltimore by proclaiming our city the most violent in the country. Unfortunately, the empirical data cited from the FBI’s annual national violent crime index report is irrefutable.
More frightening is that upon closer examination of the research presented to support USA Today’s designation of Baltimore as the “Nation’s Most Dangerous City” reveal grim statistics about a relatively small community located in the Southwest corner of the city, and about Baltimore’s west side in general.
The roughly 2.5 square mile area of Carrollton Ridge located north of Carroll Park, east of Edmonson Village, south of Sandtown-Winchester, and west of the central business district has the apparent dubious distinction of being Baltimore’s most violent neighborhood.
The murder rate in Carrollton Ridge in 2017 was one killing for every 850 residents in a community of roughly 25,500 people, nearly double the city homicide rate. Citywide, Baltimore’s rate of 55.8 per 100,000 equates to one murder for every 1,792 residents. The murder rate in the state of Maryland is eight per 100,000, and in the U.S. six victims for every 100,000.
By comparison, the Sandtown-Winchester community, number two among neighborhoods for killings in Baltimore, had a rate of one murder per 1100 residents, followed by the Park Heights area, with three murders for every 2000 residents. All three communities are on Baltimore’s west side.
The unfortunate trend is that Baltimore’s west side neighborhoods have been historically more violent than other city communities. Among the Baltimore Police Department’s nine districts— Central, Eastern, Northern, Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern, Southeastern, Southwestern and Western – the three western districts collectively have consistently outpaced the other regions of the city for murders.
The swath of Baltimore City from north to south that includes the Northern, Central and Southern districts,
except for occasional outliers, have typically had much lower murder rates. The eastern and western districts have experienced a macabre competition for murderous behavior, with the west side usually ranking higher.
Consider these statistics from the last five years: 2017 total Baltimore murders, 342. Eastern districts: 116 v Western: 131; 2016 total Baltimore murders, 318. Eastern districts: 108 vs Western: 142; 2015 total Baltimore murders, 342. Eastern districts: 111 vs Western: 161; 2014 total Baltimore murders, 211. Eastern districts: 73 vs Western: 89; 2013 total Baltimore murders, 235. Eastern districts: 81 vs Western: 99.
In the five-year period from 2013 through 2017, the three west side police districts accounted for 43 percent of total murders committed. In every one of those years except 2013, when the Carrollton Ridge neighborhood placed second with one in 1275 of its residents becoming murder victims, that community has been number one among Baltimore neighborhoods for murder, peaking in 2015 with on in 671 of its residents falling victim.
Another important statistic that may not be getting sufficient attention while the emphasis is placed on firearm murders is the proliferation of shootings overall in Baltimore. Most of the shootings were not fatal, but severely maimed victims. The spike in non-fatal gun violence is trending sharply upward.
From 2014 to 2015 non-fatal shootings in Baltimore increased 72 percent from 370 to 637. The number slowed but continued to increase in 2016, climbing to 670 attempted firearm killings, almost two per day. According to Maryland Shock Trauma Physician-In-Chief, Dr. Thomas Scalea, the average cost to treat a gunshot victim— most of whom are uninsured— is $112,000. Extrapolate this amount by 2016’s 944 shootings for a total cost of $105 million.
Regi Taylor is a West Baltimore native. The married father of four is an artist, writer and media professional specializing in political history.