There were fewer homicides in Baltimore in February than in any other month in two years, according to city crime data tracked by The Baltimore Sun.
There were 16 homicides last month, the fewest since January 2016, when there were 14.
Many crime observers in the city believe the January 2016 count was suppressed in part by a record-setting snowstorm that month that dropped 29.2 inches of snow on Baltimore.
To find another month with fewer homicides than last month, you have to go back another year to March 2015, when there were also 15 homicides, and February 2015, when there were 13 homicides. Those months preceded the sharp spike in city killings that followed the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015 and the subsequent unrest and rioting.
Since the unrest, the city has had three of its deadliest years in history. There were 342 homicides last year, a per capita record.
The February count of 16 includes the death of an unborn baby in the womb of a woman who was shot in an incident that also claimed the life of another woman last week. Baltimore Police said Thursday that they are counting the death as a homicide, though federal crime statistics generally don’t count such deaths as killings.
The baby’s 30-year-old mother, who was shot on Feb. 25, survived. She has not been identified. Another woman — 28-year-old Jasmine Chandler — was killed.
Police said the the state medical examiner’s office determined the unborn baby “could have sustained life outside of the womb,” and the baby is therefore being counted as a homicide victim. The baby’s death brings the death toll for 2018 to 42.
The fact that 16 homicides last month is a recent low reflects just how constant the killing has been lately. Before 2015, such months were more routine — particularly around this time of the year.
In 2014, there were five months with 15 or fewer homicides, with 10 in February 2014 and the modern monthly low of seven killings in March 2014. There were 15 or fewer homicides in the month of February in 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010, as well.
Homicide totals routinely fluctuate month to month. A month of declines can be followed by a month of steep increases. However, Baltimore has now seen several months in a row where homicides have been below where they were a year prior.
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.
City officials have attributed the declines to a violence reduction initiative that has targeted violent neighborhoods with resources from police but also other city departments, and to a warrant sweep with federal and state partners that led to hundreds of arrests in recent weeks.