Baltimore hits 300 homicides so far this year

The Baltimore Sun

The day before Baltimore activists will launch their second ceasefire of the year, the city surpassed 300 homicides for 2017.

Three homicides Thursday evening pushed the city to the 300 mark for the third year in a row.

At around 7:20 p.m., officers responded to the 5400 block of Moores Run Drive and found a 31-year-old man suffering from gunshot wounds. He died at an area hospital.

About 20 minutes later, another 31-year-old man was found with gunshot wounds, police said. He was taken from the 200 block of S. Collins Ave. to an area hospital, where he died.

And about an hour after that, officers found a woman inside a vacant house in the 700 block of Mura St., suffering from a gunshot wound to her upper body. She died at an area hospital, police said.

These three incidents bring the total number of homicides to 300 so far this year.

Baltimore Police said on Friday morning that the count stood at 300 — and not 301, as was reported Thursday night by The Baltimore Sun — because a killing last month was determined on Thursday to be justified, removing it from the official tally.

Derrean Mills, 24, was fatally shot in a triple shooting that also wounded two other men in the 3700 block of 5th Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of South Baltimore. T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said Friday that it was determined that Mills had opened fire first, at which point the person who shot him fired back, killing him.

This violent start to the month comes after an average of one person per day was killed in October.

Prior to 2015, Baltimore hadn't seen 300 homicides in a single year since the 1990s, which by body count was the deadliest decade in the city's history. Breaking 300 was a common occurrence back then.

Still, the death rate wasn't what it is now, because there were about 100,000 more residents in the city then.

In 2015, Baltimore broke 300 homicides for the first time since 1999, and that year ended with 344 homicides, a per capita record.

In 2016, the city passed the mark again, with 318 homicides.

Now, with 300 homicides at the start of November, the city is on pace to break records again. It could even surpass the total homicide record set in 1993, when there were 353 killings.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the public safety committee, said Thursday night that the city hitting 300 killings — particularly so early in the year — should be a wake-up call. It passed the same mark last year in mid-December.

“I hope that everyone that loves Baltimore realizes that everyone has to do soul-searching for us to be better and not have this conversation again next year, so less families are suffering this trauma,” he said. “No one and no neighborhood is exempt.”

One of the homicide scenes on Thursday night, where a 31-year-old man was found shot in the 5400 block of Moores Run Drive, in the Cedonia neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore near Frankford, is about a minute from Scott's house and an area where he often runs, he said.

There are a lot of elderly residents there, but there is also a problematic corner store where dozens of arrests have been made this year, he said. Police have been doing proactive policing in the area, he said, but can't stop the violence alone.

“They've been there, they've been making arrests. But this shows it's bigger than that,” he said.

As the killings have mounted, Scott said he has seen many activists and neighborhood advocates get worn down.

“I'm having these conversations with folks and they're all saying the same thing. ‘We've got to do more. We've got to do better.’ But so many people are beat down and tired,” he said.

He included himself in that category, but said he refuses to stop fighting for Baltimore — and urged others to stick with him.

“I love our city and I know that we can do better, because we have done better before,” he said. “Everyone is trying to do so much, but it just seems like we have do to more.”

That’s the message activists hope to bring with them into the 72-hour ceasefire scheduled for this weekend. It’s the second of its kind in recent months.

The first ceasefire was held in August, back when the city’s homicide count stood at 188. Even as residents marched through the city, held cookouts and other events aimed at curbing the violence, the weekend was marred by gunfire — including at least two homicides.

Still, organizers said it was a success, and have high hopes going into the weekend.

“We’re doing ceasefires quarterly because we saw what the first one did, how much hope it gave the city,” said Erricka Bridgeford, one of the event’s founders.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

trichman@baltsun.com

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