Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the count a “sad milestone,” vowing that “Baltimore will win again,” come the next year.
“This challenging moment shall pass if we reject blame and embrace the hope, dreams and promise of a great American city,” Commissioner Davis said. “Baltimore will win again, 2015 will not define us, and the nation will once again see our city for the determination that has long defined us.”
Officials say the homicide rate increased in May after the spring uprisings sparked by the death of Freddie Gray — the 25-year-old unarmed Black man who died from injuries sustained in police custody in April. In that month alone, the New York Timesreports, the city witnessed 42 homicides. Baltimore saw its deadliest month in July, with 45 homicides.
Baltimore’s 2015 homicide rate currently sits at 47 per 100,000 people, second only to the rate in St. Louis, which has also seen a steep spike in gun violence this year. Total shootings in Baltimore are up nearly 80 percent over the comparable period last year, while other types of crime, including robbery and burglary, have also increased.
Efforts to combat the street crime come as the Department of Justice continues an investigation into allegations of brutality and other issues within the Baltimore Police Department. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the first of six trials for the police officers charged in Gray’s arrest and death; it is scheduled to begin Nov. 30.
Officials have struggled to identify the cause of the spike in homicides. Earlier in the year, police and federal law enforcement officials speculated that the looting of drugs from pharmacies during the April 27 rioting may have played a role by disrupting street markets. But with the violence continuing, police Commissioner Kevin Davis said it now appears there is a widespread perception by criminals that the time is ripe to settle scores.
There has also been concern over the alleged slowdown by police — seen as deliberate by activists who believe the arrest of the officers who were charged in Gray’s unlawful arrest and death sparked a work stoppage — though officials have previously denied the allegations.
As of November, homicides were up 189 percent compared to 2014.