Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh brushed off a USA Today report calling Baltimore the deadliest big city in the country, saying it was based on numbers from last year and crime is down across the board so far in 2018.
Pugh addressed the report at a preview event for the Light City festival.
“Because we’re going to have so many visitors coming to Baltimore I think there’s some news I should share with you all,” the mayor said. “I know you’ve read the USA Today story talking about violence in Baltimore, but let me just say that was 2017 — we’re in 2018.”
Pugh said homicides were down more than 30 percent so far this year, as were shootings in which the victim survived and other kinds of violence.
“So tell that story,” she said.
Pugh and her aides are waging a broader campaign to burnish the city’s image. But coverage in USA Today, as well as a highly critical piece the New York Times editorial board published Sunday, account for just the latest negative attention that Baltimore has attracted from the national media.
Baltimore’s highest-ever per-capita homicide rate in 2017 also made it the deadliest big city in the country, USA Today reported Monday.
Though official data from the FBI won’t be available until later in the year, USA Today reviewed the homicide rates in the nation’s 50 largest cities and Baltimore came out on top. The 342 homicides the city experienced in 2017 were a 17 percent increase over the prior year, and translated to a rate of 56 killed per 100,000 people.
That easily outpaced New Orleans and Detroit, which both had about 40 killings per 100,000 people, according to the report.
Baltimore had more homicides last year than New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, all considerably larger cities. Only Chicago, also a considerably larger city, had more.
USA Today used the nation’s top 50 cities, which omits St. Louis, a city of about 315,000 that had 205 killings in 2017. St. Louis’ homicide rate of 65 would easily top Baltimore’s rate.
The review showed killings across the country decreased by at least 1 percent in large jurisdictions compared with 2016.
So far in 2018, Baltimore is seeing a decline in homicides. Through Sunday, 31 people had been killed, compared with 47 killed at the same time last year — a decline of about 34 percent. Other types of crime are also down across the board.
Pugh fired Police Commissioner Kevin Davis in late January and replaced him with department veteran Darryl De Sousa. State and federal authorities have been stepping up arrests using open warrants, and residents organized a recent Ceasefire weekend.
At the Light City event, Pugh noted that a New York Times travel story had recently called Baltimore one of the top places to visit in the world this year.
But after the conviction of two officers by a federal jury, the paper’s editorial board wrote a scathing piece this weekend about Baltimore’s police department, calling it “grotesquely corrupt.”