Baltimore ranked 5th deadliest

December 07, 1993|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,Based on FBI's preliminary Uniform Crime Report for the first six months of 1993) * Estimate based on calculation of current homicide rate by The Baltimore Sun. New Orleans did not report its six-month homicide rate to the FBI. Staff Writer

With the city poised to break last year's record of 335 homicides, a new report by the FBI shows that Baltimore was among a handful of cities nationwide to suffer a major increase in its murder rate in the first six months of the year -- easily holding its spot among the five deadliest municipalities in the country.

Among major cities, only Miami, St. Louis and Los Angeles reported greater increases in violent deaths in the FBI's preliminary Uniform Crime Report released Sunday.

Continuing a trend of recent years, mid-sized cities like Baltimore and St. Louis far exceeded the murder rate per 100,000 in larger cities like New York and Philadelphia, which fell out of the top 10 list of U.S. homicide capitals for the first time.

"What we're seeing is the continuing movement of large-scale drug operations out of the nation's major metropolitan areas and into neighboring cities and towns," said Dennis R. Martin, president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

"They're going where the money is -- the places where they can get top dollar for their drugs -- where the police are a little less sophisticated and the competition isn't as rough. And they're taking that violent way of doing business with them. What you're seeing now in places like Baltimore is exactly what was going on five or 10 years ago in all the big cities."

The numbers seem to bear out Mr. Martin's prognosis that the killing spree will get worse before it gets better.

Detroit was the only city with a population over 1 million people to show up in the top five deadliest cities as Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Chicago continued to slide down lower on the list.

Meanwhile, cities with half the population -- like New Orleans, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. -- continued to struggle at the top of the list with drug wars and faltering economies fueling a spiral of daily homicides. All three are on track to set new murder records by Christmas.

The deaths are also spurring a record turnover of police chiefs nationwide, as top cops become lightning rods for politicians and residents outraged over homicide trends that are largely beyond any chief's ability to control, Mr. Martin said.

"The average life expectancy of a chief today has fallen to 2 1/2 years," he said. "Not very long ago, it was twice that."

And drugs are not the only cause of the violence. Indeed, the number of drug-related killings across the country steadily declined throughout the 1980s and has only increased slightly since 1990, said Jerry Wilson, former chief of the district police and chairman of the Crime Control Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Crack cocaine completely changed the nature of homicide in this country," he said. "Here you have a drug so cheap and so easy to get that anybody can buy some and go into business. And you had a lot of inner-city kids who did just that. And crack gave them the motivation to get guns. Now, they have them and they know how to use them.

"That's what is sustaining the homicide rate today nationally, even though crack and drug-related killings are steadily declining. Instead of using their fists to settle disputes, these kids are whipping out guns and shooting."

In Washington, where drugs were once the motive for almost half of all killings, they are now responsible for only a third, Mr. Wilson said. Meanwhile, neighborhood confrontations that rarely ended in anything more than a fat lip have come to be the motive for one out of every three homicides. And young black males have come to be the principal killers and victims. "It's hard to believe when you consider the millions of dollars we're spending on crime control and security, but fewer than 1 percent of the population is committing these crimes," Mr. Wilson said. "And the best predictions are that it's not going to start declining until sometime in the mid-'90s as the young male population starts to drop off. Historically, that's how the crime cycle works.

In Baltimore -- where the murder rate stood at 329 last night, compared to 307 at the same time last year -- young black males have been on both ends of the gun in seven out of 10 killings this year.

"In Baltimore, it's still primarily drugs that's driving our homicide rate," said Police Spokesman Sam Ringgold. "But we're seeing more and more of the senseless street killings that don't have anything to do with money or drugs or business.

"It's kids who aren't sophisticated enough to attach any consequence to the act of pulling the trigger. And they're shooting other kids."

SIX MONTHS OF MURDER IN THE U.S.

Rank... ... ... ... .. Population.. Murders.. Decrease/. Killings per

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Increase... .. 100,000

1. New Orleans... ... ... 505,008... .. 202... Unknown... ... .. 40*

2. Washington... ... ... .589,000... .. 210... ... .+3... ... ... 36

3. St. Louis... ... ... . 402,573... .. 108... ... +15... ... ... 27

4. Detroit... ... ... . 1,044,128... .. 271... ... -50... ... ... 26

5. Baltimore... ... ... . 755,517... .. 172... ... +21... ... ... 23

6. Miami... ... ... ... . 373,791... .. 63... ... .+13... ... ... 17

7. Dallas... ... ... .. 1,046,562... .. 160... ... -32... ... ... 15

8. Los Angeles... ... . 3,615,355... .. 532... ... +62... ... ... 15

9. Houston... ... ... . 1,695,239... .. 230... ... .+3... ... ... 14

10. Chicago... ... ... .2,832,901... .. 373... ... -68... ... ... 13

11. New York... ... ... 7,375,097... .. 937... ... -25... ... ... 12

12. San Antonio... ... .. 972,824... .. 115... ... +10... ... ... 12

13. Philadelphia... ... 1,603,638... .. 182... ... -32... ... ... 11

14. Nashville... ... ... .514,771... ... 45... ... .+2... ... ... .9

15. Oklahoma City.. ... . 454,255... ... 43... ... +11... ... ... .9

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