Was Pugh right? Is Baltimore 'trending in the right direction' crime-wise?

A month after saying crime in Baltimore was “out of control” and a month before firing her police commissioner for not doing enough to halt homicides, Mayor Catherine Pugh said that things were “trending in the right direction” crime-wise.

Her early-December assessment was based on a selective crunching of the numbers by City Hall and a limited data set, and rubbed plenty of people the wrong way given that killings have been occurring in Baltimore on a near-daily basis for the past three years.

It was also strange in hindsight, appearing sandwiched between her other two dour assessments of crime in the city.

But consider this: Since Pugh’s comments, crime has been on the decline.

Violent crime in Baltimore declined nearly across the board last month on a year-over-year basis, according to the most recent city data available.

Through Jan. 27, there were 22 homicides in the city, a 24 percent decline from the 29 homicides during the same period last year, according to the data.

There were 26 non-fatal shootings, down from 54 last year — a 52 percent decline.

There were 400 robberies through Jan. 27, a 21 percent decline from the 509 this time last year.

There were 274 aggravated assaults, down 36 percent from 431 last year.

There were 416 burglaries, down 35 percent from 641 last year.

And there were 493 common assaults, down 14 percent from 570 last year.

Crime, however, was down in many categories in December as well, making the declines for the start of this year a continuation of declines at the end of last year.

Crime also often fluctuates in Baltimore. A month of declines can be all but erased statistically in a matter of days by quick bursts of gunfire or a crime crew having a few busy nights.

The current pace of crime does not mark a low. City crime has been increasing for years — for example, there were about 16 percent more robberies in 2016 than in 2015, and about 9 percent more robberies in 2017 than in 2016 — and any year-over-year declines have to be viewed in that context.

Still, “trending in the right direction” may not be too far off the mark.

Another question that may come to mind is whether the January declines have anything to do with the changeover in police leadership since Pugh fired Police Commissioner Kevin Davis last month and put Deputy Commissioner Darryl De Sousa in his place.

Davis, however, was commissioner all of December and the majority of January, meaning most of the data in question reflects his tenure, not De Sousa’s.

There also wasn’t a single homicide in the last week of Davis’ tenure, and nine homicides in the first week of De Sousa’s tenure.



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