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Baltimore crime is down over same period last year, though gunfire marred holiday weekend

Crime in Baltimore was down through the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period last year, according to city data — continuing a trend that began slowly in November.

There were 60 killings in Baltimore in 2018 as of Monday, compared with 79 during the same period last year. Through March 24, homicides were down 27 percent from last year and non-fatal shootings were down 23 percent, according to city data.

Still, the declines are only in comparison to 2017 -- which was the deadliest year on record in the city. Crime remains above five-year averages, and gunfire marred the holiday weekend and continued Monday.

Police were investigating a double shooting Monday afternoon in the city’s Parkview-Woodbrook neighborhood. They were called to the 2300 block of Bryant Ave. about 4:40 p.m. Two victims later arrived at a local hospital seeking treatment. One victim, a 27-year-old man, died from his injuries. Another victim, a 29-year-old man, is being treated at the hospital.

Also among recent victims were a young man and woman fatally shot in North Baltimore on Saturday, an unidentified male shot on Easter night, and a 42-year-old man who was fatally shot in Northeast Baltimore early Monday morning, Baltimore Police said.

In the latter incident, officers responded to the 5700 block of Moravia Road, in the city’s Frankford neighborhood, at 3:37 a.m. and found Rudolph Pritchett, of the same neighborhood, with a gunshot wound to the back, police said.

Pritchett was transported to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The shooting occurred on the same block as Vanguard Collegiate Middle School, where City Councilman Brandon Scott — who represents the district — works as an assistant basketball coach.

“The first calls I got this morning were from teachers and people working at the school, asking me, ‘Is there anything we should be doing differently?’ ” said Scott, chair of the council’s public safety committee. “There are children who literally have to walk that route to school every day.”

Scott said he is “encouraged” by the fact that crime is down from last year — when the city saw historic levels of violence — but that alone doesn’t mark success.

“Yes, I’m encouraged by the progress that we’ve made, but still, there’s much more progress to be made. Simply basing our success versus last year? It’s not success,” Scott said. “A football coach is not going to say, ‘Oh, if we go from 0-15 to 2-13, that’s success.’ No. I’m looking for success compared to our historic lows, like in 2011. That’s going to be the baseline for me.”

There were 197 homicides in Baltimore in 2011, the fewest of any year since 1978.

Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said Monday that she also is “not satisfied” with the reductions in crime since last year, but believes the city is moving in the right direction.

“We’re driving every day toward violence reduction. That’s our No. 1 focus: to make our city safer,” she said. Sustained improvements, she said, “will take all of us working together.”

Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa — a former deputy commissioner who replaced Commissioner Kevin Davis after Pugh fired Davis in January — said commanders met back in October, when Davis was still in charge, to discuss “areas of concern” and where they needed more robust deployments.

“We got all the district commanders on the same sheet of music,” De Sousa said.

He said the mayor’s violence reduction initiative, which targets city resources to violent neighborhoods, is making a difference. De Sousa also cited the special deployments in problem corridors and a massive warrant sweep with state and federal partners that led to hundreds of arrests from mid-January to mid-February as contributing to the declines in crime.

Where violence has occurred outside deployment areas, “we quickly gather to see if we need to redeploy,” he said.

De Sousa also said improved relationships in communities are leading residents to provide more tips.

In addition to the Monday morning homicide, police found a gunshot victim in Southwest Baltimore on Sunday night.

About 7:45 p.m., officers responded to the 900 block of Poplar Grove, in the Franklintown Road neighborhood, for an accident involving a scooter and an MTA bus and found an unidentified male victim — the scooter driver — wounded in the crash, police said.

The victim was taken to a local hospital, where it was determined that he was also suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Police were subsequently called to the 2900 block of Belmont Ave., less than a half-mile north of the crash scene, for destruction of property from a discharging of a firearm, and located a crime scene there where they believe the victim was shot, police said.

Due to the severity of the victim’s injuries, homicide detectives were notified, police said.

Police on Monday also identified several other recent homicide victims.

The two victims fatally shot Saturday in the 2600 block of Loyola Southway, in Greenspring in North Baltimore, were identified Monday as 21-year-old Ohigee Parker and 19-year-old Emani Marshall, both of the same block.

A 52-year-old man fatally shot Wednesday in the 1700 block of North Payson St., in the Easterwood neighborhood of West Baltimore, was identified as Derrick Jefferson, of the same block.

A 28-year-old man fatally shot March 25 in the 5300 block of Denmore Ave., in the Arlington neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, was identified as Donte Stuckey, of the same neighborhood, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100 or text them at 443-902-4824, or call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCK-UP.

The declines in killings this year are from a per-capita record 342 homicides last year, and do not put the city anywhere close to historic lows.

Crime remains above the five-year average for this time of year. Compared to the 60 homicides through Monday, there were 56 homicides in the first three months of 2016, 50 in 2015 and 44 in 2014.

But the declines from the past year are significant. In both February and now in March, the city saw 16 homicides — fewer than in any other month since January 2016, when there were 14 killings.

City officials have touted the declines in crime as a sign the city is coming together against violence, particularly given that it is not just homicides and non-fatal shootings that are down. Through the first quarter of the year, robberies were down by about 18 percent, aggravated assaults by 24 percent and burglaries by 27 percent.

Last month, after a USA Today article designated Baltimore the deadliest big city in the country, Pugh brushed it off.

“Let me just say that was 2017 — we’re in 2018,” the mayor said — suggesting members of the media should “tell that story.”

She praised De Sousa’s leadership.

Pugh said Davis was the right commissioner to lead the department through the first phases of the federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, which mandates sweeping reforms, as he had been through a similar process in Prince George’s County.

But “what I didn’t see were the reductions in crime I needed to see,” she said.

She said she believes De Sousa is the right commissioner to drive crime down, and that she is optimistic the city will be able to maintain those declines into the spring and summer, when crime tends to tick up in Baltimore.

She cited increased lighting in city neighborhoods, ramped up community efforts to keep kids out of trouble, new technology for police including mobile computers in patrol cars, gunshot detection technology and other predictive policing measures.

De Sousa said there is going to be another warrant sweep with state and federal partners in Baltimore soon, but didn’t disclose the dates.

Homicide counts for first three months of the year

YTD (year-end total):

2018: 60

2017: 79 (342)

2016: 56 (318)

2015: 50 (342)

2014: 44 (211)

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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