Just three of Baltimore's 235 homicides in 2013 have a known drug motive, and police say 30 of the victims were verified gang members, year-end statistics show.

As the year came to a close with an increase in homicides and shootings, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said in television interviews that up to 85 percent of the victims of the city's gun violence were black men involved in the drug trade.

He was not available for further comment.

Black males made up 84 percent of the city's homicide victims in 2013. And while officials say that drugs and gangs fuel much of the violence in Baltimore, detectives investigating the deaths verified drug motives in just three of the cases, according to police records. The motive is listed as unknown in 164 cases, the records show.

The refrain about drug ties is drawn from the criminal records of the victims. Police Department data indicates that 74 percent of the homicide victims last year had a drug arrest on their record and 86.4 percent had been arrested for some crime.

Among homicide suspects, 86 percent had criminal records and 72.5 percent had drug arrests.

Gang ties, not tracked by the department before 2013, were determined in 66 cases, and 30 of the victims were listed as gang members.

Detectives closed 50.2 percent of last year's homicide cases in Baltimore, up from recent years when the rate was below 50 percent. That's about equal to the national average of 50.9 percent for departments in cities with 500,000 to 999,999 people, but still a number that Baltimore police want to improve.

A higher percentage of shooting victims died, with 31.7 percent of those shot last year succumbing to their wounds, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of police data. That is up from 24.7 percent in 2008 and 28.2 percent in 2011.

The percentage of victims shot in the head, which is tracked by the homicide unit, was 55 percent, a figure that was in the high 30 percent or 40 percent range from 2001 to 2007.

jfenton@baltsun.com