May marked Baltimore’s deadliest month in more than 40 years as three men were fatally shot yesterday, bringing the month’s homicide toll to 43.
The Baltimore Sun reported the two separate shootings Sunday—the first killing two men after they were fatally shot in the head, the second killing one man and leaving another injured after both were shot in the back. Both shootings occurred in East Baltimore.
Baltimore has not seen this level of homicides in the span of a month since August 1972, when 45 people were murdered, and December 1971, when 44 were killed.
In addition to the 43 fatally shot in May, more than 100 people were injured by gunfire.
A difference today is the steep drop in population since the 1970s when the city had more than 900,000 residents. Today, Baltimore’s population sits at about 600,000.
Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer and assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, wrote that given this population drop, May is the deadliest month Baltimore has ever seen based on the per-capita homicide rate.
The city’s homicide rate per every 100,000 people in Baltimore was 6.1 last month, an increase from 5.0 in August 1972.
“Even if no other people had been murdered in Baltimore before May, and even if no more people were killed from today until 2016, Baltimore would still have an above average annual homicide rate just based on the May killings,” Moskos wrote on his blog.
The jump in homicides follows the death of Freddie Gray, which ignited a slew of riots in April and led to increased scrutiny of the Baltimore Police Department. Some point to the aftermath of Gray’s death as reason for the uptick in violence.
“Following a period of civil unrest, we have been experiencing an increase of the pace of violent crime, most notably in homicide shootings,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts wrote in a letter to community leaders, according to USA Today.
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen told The Washington Post that the department views the violence as a “public health problem.”
“It’s something that’s contagious, that spreads from person to person, perpetrators to victims. This sounds negative, but just like if this is a disease, there’s a way to treat and prevent it,” Wen said.
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