USA Today tagged Baltimore with a dubious distinction many of the city’s residents probably believe has been valid for several years; the “nation’s most dangerous city.”

“Baltimore is the big city with the highest per capita murder rate in the nation, with nearly 56 murders per 100,000 people. At 343 murders in 2017, the city tallied the highest per capita rate in its history,” USA Today wrote Feb. 19.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh defended the city after Baltimore was named America’s most ‘dangerous’ city. (Courtesy photo)

The newspaper cited the fact the overall homicide rate for the nation’s 50 biggest cities dipped slightly in 2017, according to crime data from police department’s around the country.

However, the slight decrease overall (about 1 percent) was driven by significant decreases in murders in cities like Chicago (14.7%), New York City (13.4%) and Houston (11%). While Baltimore added 25 homicides in 2017 (343) up from the total of 318 in 2016. In 2015, the year of the uprising following the death of Freddie Gray, the city registered 344 homicides. Still, the 2015 total was less per capita than in 2017.

In fact, Baltimore recorded the second most murders in the nation among major cities in 2017, only behind Chicago (650 homicides in 2017, down from 762 in 2016), a city with a population of about 2.7 million, compared to Baltimore’s population of about 620,000 people. Baltimore had more homicides in 2017, than Philadelphia (317, pop. of about 1.5 million), New York (290, pop. of about 8.5 million) and Los Angeles (286, pop. more than 3.9 million).

The USA Today story cited experts who linked troubling homicide rates in cities like Baltimore and Chicago with “fractured relationships” between police department’s and the communities they serve. In the aftermath of the death of Gray and the subsequent uprising in 2015, the devastating Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) in 2016 and the Gun Trace Task Force scandal in 2017, the gulf between police and community is a familiar theme in Baltimore.

“We acknowledge the 2017 report (in USA Today) but, we also want to acknowledge we are trending downward in every single category…in terms of crime (since Nov. 2017),” said Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh during a press conference Tuesday morning, with BPD Commissioner Darryl De Sousa by her side. “I’m very clear that the direction we’re taking is going to get us to where we need to go. Are we satisfied yet, no. Are we trending in the right direction, yes,” added Pugh.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor