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Mayor, Commissioner Address Baltimore's Record Per Capita Homicides

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Just minutes after Baltimore's mayor and police commissioner spoke about reducing the number of homicides, the city recorded its 344th killing of 2019 on Eagle Street in southwest Baltimore. 

The number of killings had already reached a record per capita—a rate higher than Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City.

"I want to let all Baltimoreans know I feel your pain due to the senseless loss of your loved ones, and I share in the anger about the persistent level of violence occurring in our communities," Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Jack Young said at a news conference Monday.

Police said overall crime, including robberies, burglaries and rapes, is down. Despite that, more than 1,000 people have been shot since January 1, and there have been more than 500 carjackings.

"We even had a police officer shot and injured because of this violence. That level of violence cannot be tolerated in a civil society," said Commissioner Michael Harrison. "We must continue to focus on the city's most violent criminals.

The mayor's office announced successes with programs like Safe Streets and Roca that target those at risk. They also touted federal grants and a greater partnership with federal and state law enforcement.

"Starting in early 2020, the city will begin weekly homicide, non-fatal shooting and armed robbery case reviews with the police department and the state's attorney to ensure we have the highest quality cases moving forward," said Sunny Schnitzer with the mayor's office.

Baltimore has recorded more than 300 murders for each of the past five years. The 344 homicides in 2019 ties the number of killings in 2015, the year of Freddie Gray's death and subsequent riots that shook the city.

"There is a lack of fear of existing consequences," Harrison said.

He told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren he would define success in 2020, in part, on successfully solving more cases.

"There's been far too much violence, far too much pain," Harrison said. "One murder is too many. Zero murders should always be the goal."

Starting in May, surveillance planes will be back up in the sky as part of a pilot program to see if they can cut down on serious crime.

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