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Baltimore mayor cites 'downward trend in violence' in praising De Sousa. But what do the numbers show?

In suspending Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa on Friday, and then again in accepting his resignation on Tuesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh cited a "downward trend in violence" to applaud his leadership of the department in the months before he was charged with federal crimes of failing to file income tax returns.

Let's consider the claim.

There were positive signs crime was slowing in the first quarter of this year. But there were still more killings during the first three months of 2018 than during any comparable period in the last five years — with the exception of last year, which was the deadliest year on record on a per-capita basis, with 342 homicides.

During the first three months of this year, there were 60 homicides — fewer than the 79 in the same period last year, but more than the 56 in 2016, 50 in 2015 and 44 in 2014.

And since then, 2018 has been intensely violent. Thirty-four people were killed in April, and 13 in the first half of May.

Through Thursday, there had been 105 homicides in Baltimore in 2018. That’s fewer than the 129 homicides during the same period last year, but more than the 92 in 2016, 93 in 2015, and 68 in 2014.

Recent violence has reduced the year-over-year percentage declines seen in the first quarter of 2018. Through March 24, homicides were down 27 percent from 2017, and non-fatal shootings were down 23 percent. But through May 5, those percentage declines had dropped to 16 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Year-over-year reductions in other categories of crime have also been narrowed in the second quarter. Through the first quarter of 2018, robberies were down 18 percent, and aggravated assaults were down 24 percent. Through May 5, robberies were down 14 percent, and aggravated assaults down 19 percent.

Another thing to consider is that the year-over-year declines in homicides began last November and lasted through March. De Sousa took the helm of the department in the middle of that span, in mid-January, and the trend was halted in April.

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