Baltimore, Maryland’s homicide rate has been going in the wrong direction for years now, and a report recently obtained by the Baltimore Sun reveals that, as far back as 2016 police officials were aware of issues in the Baltimore Police’s homicide unit that led to dozens of criminals getting away with murder.
The report came from the Police Executive Research Forum, and according to the Sun it detailed the problems that were plaguing the unit and preventing it from operating effectively.
There were too few detectives with too little training, supervision and equipment. And they had more cases than they could handle. Instead of catching killers, they were placing unsolved investigations on the back burner within a matter of weeks, with no effective process for dealing with the cold cases that inevitably piled up.
“Given Baltimore’s recent rise in homicides, it is more important than ever that these crimes be investigated thoroughly and according to best practices,” the report read.
Solving cases was critical, it said, not only to bring perpetrators to justice but to “help prevent future homicides by eliminating repeat offenders and reducing retaliation killings.”
Rather than act on the report’s recommendations, the Sun reports that the top brass in the police department ignored them, even as the city’s clearance rate for homicides continued to drop, and the murder rates continued to climb.
From 2015 to 2019, a stunning 1,660 people were killed in Baltimore. Just 654 cases were solved, a five-year clearance rate of less than 40%.
The average clearance rate for similarly sized cities in 2018 was nearly 58%, according to the most recent FBI data. Baltimore’s was less than 43% that year.
And last year Baltimore’s clearance rate was a dismal 31%. The rate includes cases cleared for reasons other than arrests, such as when suspects are killed themselves. Only 89 people were actually arrested for homicide last year, when Baltimore had 348 homicides.
Keep in mind that Maryland has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country. Back in 2013, then-governor Martin O’Malley signed the Firearms Safety Act into law and promised that the “common sense” legislation would save lives. Instead, Baltimore street criminals ignored the new laws requiring background checks for all gun sales, a ban on so-called assault weapons, and other restrictions aimed at legal gun owners, and by 2015 the city saw the number of murders reach more than 300 for the first time in several years. They’ve stayed above that level ever since, and the city’s per capita homicide rate is now as high as it was during the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the height of the crack cocaine-fueled drug wars.
As it turns out, gun control wasn’t the magic solution that O’Malley and other anti-gun politicians claimed it would be. When criminals believe they can get away with murder, it tends to lead to more murders, and that’s exactly what’s happened in Baltimore.
The city’s latest police commissioner says he’s planning on implementing some of the changes recommended in the PERF report, and hopefully those changes will be effective in improving the abysmal clearance rate for homicides. Unfortunately too many lawmakers in Annapolis are still convinced that the way to reduce violent crime is to reduce the number of legal gun owners, and as long as that mentality still holds sway the good people in the city’s worst neighborhoods are going to continue to suffer.