Arrests Fall, Murder Booms in Baltimore’s Worst Area

Murders in one part of town are up 200 percent, shootings 800 percent, but police are locking up fewer people.

David Goldman

Baltimore logged its 100th murder of the year on Thursday morning, hitting the milestone after recording more than a murder per day in the month following Freddie Gray’s death.

The massive increase in homicide, shootings, and violent crime comes as arrests have plummeted to their lowest levels all year. In the week before Gray died, 682 people were arrested. In the last week of available data, 339 people were arrested.

The Western District, where Gray was arrested, is the center of the crime boom. Homicides are up 200 percent compared to this time last year; non-fatal shootings have risen 800 percent; robberies of varying types 100 to 300 percent.

Despite more crime, there are far fewer arrests in the district. In fact, at least three days in May saw no arrests.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said Wednesday that there’s been no work slowdown like what happened in New York after two police officers were slain in February.

“Our officers are not holding back,” he said. “Our officers are working hard and making significant arrests.”

Batts blamed crowds in the Western District for the lack of effective policing.

“It makes it very difficult to follow up on violence that takes place there,” Batts said on Thursday. “They’re getting to those locations and getting surrounded. You have many citizens with hand-held cameras that they’re sticking in the faces of officers, an inch off the officer’s face.”

A community activist told The Baltimore Sun that Batts’ excuse is weak.

“What Batts is worried about is that people are more aware and more willing to hold police accountable in the Western District,” said Deray McKesson. “It’s a scary day in America when a chief of police says ‘People are watching us and we can’t do our jobs.’”