Violent Crime in Baltimore
March 27, 2019
by Peter van Agtmael
The 2015 death of suspect Freddie Gray at the hands of police officers caused public outrage and prompted a reassessment of the Baltimore Police Department's doctrines. Many residents of the city's high-crime and predominately African-American neighborhoods had long criticized the BPD's posture of an occupying army in enemy territory. In 2016 the US Department of Justice accused the BPD of racial discrimination and use of excessive force.
Following this report, the federal government demanded topolicing reforms, to be enforced by a judge and overseen by an independent monitoring team. Frustrated, the police temporarily ceased patrolling hot-spots and became less aggressive for fear of censure or prosecution.
Since then, the violent crime rate has increased. In 2017 Baltimore experienced it's highest murder rate ever: 342 murders, far higher per-capita than cities with more than 500,000 residents. Though most major US cities have witnessed substantial urban rebirth, violence has stagnated progress in Baltimore. In reaction, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced plans to increase city services in high-crime areas, introduce a program for at-risk youth, and expand the Safe Streets initiative, which uses former offenders as "violence interrupters."
On assignment for The New York Times Magazine, Peter van Agtmael documented the situation in Baltimore during multiple trips in 2018 and 2019.
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