Despite the city's surpassing 200 homicides after a spell of shootings and killings over the weekend, Baltimore's police commissioner said he is pleased with the overall numbers, which closely mirror those from a year ago.
The city's 234 homicides in 2008 marked a two-decade low, and department officials say they are on pace to record about that same number this year. But the recent surge in shooting deaths, including 13 killings in 15 days this month, led Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III to call an afternoon news conference and defend the department's crime-fighting strategies.
Bealefeld said the city is below the 20-, 10- and five-year averages for homicides. Officials say the department's strategy of targeting violent offenders and building partnerships with the community and other agencies continues to work.
"The fact is that violent crime is down in Baltimore," Bealefeld said. "We've made significant progress in homicides, but few people hear that because their perception of crime outstrips the facts."
The city expects to see 38 fewer homicides this year than the 10-year average of 268. But this month is shaping up to be one of the year's deadliest - a repeat of last November, when Baltimore recorded 30 homicides as overtime was cut for police personnel.
Bealefeld said he is less concerned about the month-to-month similarities than he is about the common thread among the killings this November. He said several of the recent attacks appeared to be premeditated.
"I look at, 'Are we deployed in the right way and are we gaining good intelligence?' The intelligence-gaining factor is something I'm really pushing them hard now," Bealefeld said.
The most recent homicides saw an 18-year-old man killed in East Baltimore and a 25-year-old man shot to death in West Baltimore on Sunday, according to police.
Officers found the East Baltimore victim in the 1900 block of E. Lanvale St. about 11:40 p.m. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital and pronounced dead about 45 minutes later, according to police.
Police have not been able to identify the man.
Earlier in the night, police responded to the 2900 block of Garrison Boulevard and found a man suffering from head trauma and gunshot wounds inside the living room of an apartment.
The man was pronounced dead about 6:10 p.m., five minutes after medical crews arrived. Police have not identified the man.
Police have no suspects and no motives in either case.
The incidents close out one of the city's most violent weekends this year. On Saturday, 45-year-old, wheelchair-bound Anthony Swann was fatally shot during an invasion of his Lemmon Street home, during which his mother also was shot. She survived. Police said Josue Antonio Zelaya, 18, of the 1200 block of Broening Highway, was shot in the side by a friend inside a house in the 400 block of S. Glover St. early Sunday and died a short time later at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Arrested and charged with homicide was Velasquez R. Roque, 19, of the Glover Street address, said Officer Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman.
Another man was fatally shot in the 2400 block of Druid Hill Ave. while seated in a car about 1 a.m. Saturday. The victim, Sammie McCullough Jr., 36, died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Police said an unidentified man was fatally shot about 9:40 p.m. Friday in the 5100 block of Arbutus Ave.
There have been 201 homicides in the city this year, police said.