For the first time, Baltimore is on track to surpass New York City in homicides — a grim feat once considered inconceivable.
New York, which has a population of 8.5 million, had 182 homicides as of Sept. 3, according to police department data. Baltimore, a city of less than 620,000, was already at 238 victims as of that date, records show.
The distinction owes more to New York's stunning decline in crime than Baltimore's relatively stubborn crime rate.
New York once saw more than 2,000 homicides a year in the early 1990s, a figure that tumbled over the course of that decade.
Still, just a few years ago, New York's total number of homicides topped 500 annually, and in 2011 Baltimore recorded fewer than 200 killings for the first time in decades.
But New York's murder rate continued to decline, and Baltimore's spiked, with more than 300 homicides in 2015 and 2016.
On a per-capita basis, the cities aren't anywhere near each other. Baltimore saw 50 killings per 100,000 people in 2016. New York had 3.9 killings per 100,000.
New York's declines in the 1990s often were attributed to zero-tolerance policies and statistics-based policing, prompting Baltimore to adopt similar strategies. But New York in recent years also backed away from controversial stop-and-frisk tactics, and has continued to experience big declines.