Majority of Baltimore homicide victims in 2018 were shot in the head, analysis shows

More than half of Baltimore’s 309 homicide victims in 2018 were shot in the head, according to the police department’s annual homicide analysis released Wednesday.

There were 175 victims with fatal head wounds last year, which accounted for 57 percent of all homicides. In 2017, 45 percent of the city’s 342 homicides involved head wounds; in 2016, 47 percent of the city’s 318 homicides did.


The annual homicide analysis includes an array of statistics, including information about the victims, suspects, and the locations and motives for the killings.

Of the city’s 309 homicide victims, 13 were injured in shootings from previous years and died in 2018, so their deaths were included in the 2018 count. The number of victims dying from shootings in previous years has been increasing. There were 10 such cases in 2017, four in 2016 and three in 2015.


The large majority of killings — 271, or 88 percent — were from gunfire. And of those, 199 victims were shot multiple times.

Motives for a large majority of homicides are unknown. In 2018, police only identified two cases tied to retaliation, one to gangs, 11 to drugs and 10 to robberies.

Most homicide victims in 2018 were black (291 of all victims) and male (275 victims). More were between the ages of 25 and 29 (78 victims) or 30 to 39 (76). Seventeen victims were juveniles, 10 of whom were under the age of 10. Thirty-four victims were aged 50 or older.

The majority of homicides occurred on the street (185), followed by homes (48) and then vehicles (30). Police said nearly a third involved drug crew or gang members.

A majority of victims had criminal histories. Police said 259 of the 309 victims had records, 219 had prior drug arrests, and 149 were previously arrested for a violent crime.

The final hours of 2018 in Baltimore saw a 17-year-old boy become the city's 309th homicide, while the new year was met with multiple non-fatal shootings, according to police.

In addition to a drop in homicides, the city also saw fewer nonfatal shootings. There were 681 nonfatal shootings in 2018, compared to 703 in 2017.

The homicide clearance rate in 2018 was 43.4 percent. That’s down from 51.5 percent in 2017, but up from 38.7 percent in 2016.

Police said they identified 90 homicide suspects last year, 82 of whom have been arrested. Of the 82 arrests in 2018, police said 52 were for cases closed from prior years..

The murder of popular student Victorious Swift is among a growing number of Baltimore homicides being “closed by exception" after police determine the suspect is also dead. Police say the practice reflects a hard reality, that so-called "street justice" often outpaces their own investigations.

Of the 90 suspects identified in 2018, police said 77 have prior records and 46 were previously arrested for violent crimes. About a quarter of all suspects were believed to be members of a drug crew or gang, police said. Seven were suspects in previous homicides.

The homicide clearance rate includes cases where detectives have made an arrest and cases that are closed by exception, which means police believe they have enough information to make an arrest but can’t because of various reasons, such as the death of the suspect. The Baltimore Sun had reported last year that the department is increasingly closing cases by exception. The number has increased dramatically, from 11 cases in 2014 to 42 cases in 2018.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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