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Another deadly week brings 2019 homicide total to 342, tied for second-most in Baltimore’s history

This holiday week brought no peace to Baltimore.

A working mother gunned down in front of her children at an East Side deli. A man who succumbed to the gunshot wounds he suffered two weeks ago. A baby believed to be shaken to death. A man shot to death inside a car.

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The four killings this week push the 2019 body count to match the second-most on record: 342 homicides.

Worse yet, the homicide rate for 2019 has already set a grim record of 57 killings per 100,000 people.

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Police commanders and city leaders are planning to address the violence Monday, a police spokesman said.

“Every murder is a tragedy," said Matt Jablow, the spokesman. “Our detectives work as hard as they possibly can to solve each and every one.”

Across Baltimore, the murderous year may be seen in memorial T-shirts worn by grieving family members and in the bumper sticks with initials of another slain son, brother or father. Street corners hold makeshift memorials of burnt candles and empty liquor bottles. Teddy bears and limp balloons hang from street lights.

“I’m just brokenhearted,” said Ivan Bates, a defense attorney and former homicide prosecutor. “What we see a lot of times with homicides is they’re retaliatory. So, they’re hurt people who hurt people.”

The crisis of gun violence is brought into stark relief during jury selection, Bates said. Each time, a judge asks whether any prospective jurors or their family members have been victims.

“When I started my career, you may have 10 or 15 out of a group of 100,” Bates said. “Now, you have half the jury panel stand up ... You see in a 20-year span how far we have come."

Baltimore suffered more homicides only in 1993, when 353 people were killed. Nearly 125,000 more people lived in the city then, so the homicide rate was lower: 48 killings per 100,000 people.

Nearly one-third of killings this year happened in the police districts with some of the lowest populations: eastern and western. Here, neighborhoods have been hit hardest by drugs and poverty.

Citywide, another 766 people have been shot this year and survived. That’s a 14% increase over last year.

City leaders continue to try and stem the bloodshed.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced support this month for a controversial program to fly surveillance planes over the city to record the streets and aid in the crime fight. The program has drawn concerns about government monitoring of the people.

Harrison announced a trial run of four to six months to begin this spring.

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Formerly superintendent of police in New Orleans, Harrison is rounding out his first year on the job. The police department continues to suffer from attrition. A consulting company commissioned to study the department found police should hire 300 more officers.

The department announced a marketing effort to attract recruits next year.

Meanwhile, police commanders continue to implement reforms required by federal authorities. Baltimore entered into the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in April 2017 after investigators found the department routinely violated civil rights of residents in poor and minority neighborhoods.

Homicide detectives also continue to grapple with high caseloads. In 2018, detectives closed 43.4% of cases, a decrease from 51.5% the year before.

In one of the latest cases, the victim was just 7 months old. Harlem Phillips was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital while unconscious and unresponsive. The doctors were told she fell off a sofa at a home in Northeast Avenue. But they found her injuries consistent with being shaken, police said. The little girl died Christmas morning.

Through a relative, the baby’s family declined to comment, saying family members needed time to grieve.

Police have not made any arrests and are asking anyone with information to call 410-396-2100.

Detectives were also investigating two deadly shootings Thursday.

In South Baltimore, officers were called around 10:15 p.m. Thursday to the Carrollton Ridge neighborhood for reports of a shooting. They found a man shot multiple times in the 1800 block of W. Pratt St. He died at the hospital.

In Northeast Baltimore about an hour later, police were called to the Waltherson neighborhood for another shooting. They found a man with gunshot wounds inside a car in the 4200 block of Furley Ave. He also died at the hospital.

Baltimore Sun reporters Tim Prudente and McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.

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