Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has become an enduring punch line over the last month thanks to a pattern of erratic behavior, including the acknowledgment that he smoked crack cocaine about a year ago and a series of press conferences laden with outrageous outbursts.

But amid Ford’s month-long personal train wreck, Baltimore has seen a spike in murders that has widened the gap in murder rate between Charm City, with a population of 660,000 and the Canadian metropolis of more than 2.7 million people.

The shooting death of 22-year-old Kennard Buckner on the morning of Nov. 17 marked the 29th homicide in Baltimore in the previous 30 days and the 210th murder of the year for the city, according to The Baltimore Sun—and a 211th would be added just days later. The city appears to be on track for a third year of increased murders, after seeing 217 in 2012 and 197 in 2011.

By comparison, Toronto had suffered a total of just 21 homicides by shooting as of Nov. 5, according to the Toronto Police Service.

Ford, a conservative politician, claims that his fiscal acumen has saved Toronto taxpayers millions of dollars during his time in office. The scandal-plagued mayor ran on a law and order platform, according to Toronto political observers.

“He is actually also known to be very hard-lined on crime,” said Don Peat, City Hall bureau chief for The Toronto Sun. “Very right-wing on supporting the police.”

Despite the laughs Ford’s actions have brought to America, the large gap in the rate of gun deaths should be a sober reminder of the stark difference between the culture of gun violence in America and that of our neighbors to the north.

“It is an incredibly safe city. We have a very low murder rate, especially when compared to some American cities,” Peat said.

Baltimore police did not respond to a request for comment on the spike in homicides as of press time.

However, in mid-November the department released its latest crime fighting plan—the first under the leadership of Commissioner Anthony Batts, who has been on the job for about a year now. The plan outlined a wide-ranging strategy for reducing crime, and specifically the homicide rate.

“Having been through several cycles of up and down, the most intriguing thing to me about the homicide rate is how resistant it is to empiricism,” said Stephen Janis, a veteran investigative reporter and co-author of Why We Kill: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore, and his latest book, You Can’t Stop Murder.

“In other words,” Janis said, “we have the same discussion about it and it always comes down to policing…and no matter what happens we seem to be fixated on the fact that we could somehow use policing to prevent this number from going up or down.”

“Which, given all the resources this community expends on policing is something worth questioning,” Janis added.


Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor