Violent crime -- not just murder -- rises in Baltimore

January 01, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Baltimore Police DepartmentStaff Writer

In past years with high numbers of homicides, Baltimore officials found a glimmer of hope -- namely that while murder counts were high, the overall incidence of violent crime was dropping. But that doesn't appear to be the case in 1993, police officials said.

As the year drew to a close, the homicide total remained at 354 late yesterday. That is by far the deadliest count -- 19 more than the previous record set in 1992. And police say Baltimore's crime picture has worsened in nearly every other category.

"For the first 10 months of the year, the overall violent crime index is 2 1/2 percent above last year," said Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman. "Along with homicide, we've seen increases in robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny."

The numbers are particularly disturbing in the robbery category, police said. Through Nov. 1, 10,117 robberies were reported, an average of 33 a day.

Among them were 116 bank robberies, which broke the city's old record of 96 set in 1980.

Crime declined in two categories. The number of reported forcible rapes decreased from 658 to 552, a 16 percent drop. And the number of auto thefts also declined, from 9,605 to 8,676, nearly a 10 percent drop.

"There is an ebb and flow with respect to crime statistics," Agent Price said. "Seldom if ever do we see constant linear growth in any one category of crime."

On car thefts, the police spokesman attributed the drop to stronger carjacking laws and sophisticated theft-prevention devices.

"People are generally more circumspect about protecting their automobiles from theft," he said.

As of Oct. 31, the city recorded 7,297 aggravated assaults, 15,034 burglaries and 34,901 larcenies.

The various statistics show that on a typical day in Baltimore, the following crimes are likely to occur:

* One homicide;

* 24 aggravated assaults;

* 49 burglaries;

* 115 larcenies;

* 28 car thefts.

"For all this, there are no final answers," says Agent Price. "The abhorrently high crime rates, especially the grim statistics of violent crime, does not reflect a condition which is unique to Baltimore. The violent crime rate in America is the industrial world's worst. It is more than five times that of Europe and four times that of Canada, Australia and New Zealand."

He said the Police Department's analysis of its crime load always points to the same root causes: "Drugs, proliferation of guns, poverty, lack of job opportunities, discrimination, inadequate housing, poor schools and disintegrating families."

Baltimore and 21 other major cities have set homicide records this year, according to a recent survey by USA Today.

According to FBI data for the first half of the year, Baltimore ranks as the fifth-deadliest city in the United States in the category of homicides per capita.

The figures, which are the most recent available, place Baltimore behind Detroit, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.

Comparing murder rates per 100,000 population, the FBI has found that midsize cities such as Baltimore have surpassed larger cities such as New York and Philadelphia.

Some authorities attribute the escalating murder rates in midsize cities to violence surrounding drug organizations whose influence was once felt mainly in large cities.

Although city police generally state that drugs are at the root of many Baltimore homicides, proof of that is often elusive. In statistics, the leading motive for homicide is simply stated as "arguments."

Sixty-eight percent, or 154, of the Baltimore homicides in the first 10 months of the year were attributed to arguments. That is followed by robbery (17 percent) and revenge (8 percent). The motive in 24 percent of the cases is unknown.

The city's record-breaking homicide totals in the past two years are especially significant because the previous homicide record of 330 was set in 1972, a year when nearly 170,000 more people lived in the city.

BALTIMORE VIOLENT CRIMES

L

Violent Crimes in Baltimore During First 10 Months of 1993

@6TYPE OF CRIME .. .. .. 1992 .. 1993 .. +/- .. Percent

MURDER ... .. .. .. .. 278 ... 294* .. +16 .. +5.8

FORCIBLE RAPE .. .. .. 658 ... 552 .. -106 .. -16.1

ROBBERY .. .. .. .. . 9801 . 10117 .. +316 ... +3.2

AGGRAVATED ASSAULT .. 7221 .. 7297 ... +76 ... +1.1

BURGLARY .. .. .. .. 13288 . 15034 . +1746 .. +13.1

LARCENY ... .. .. .. 34174 . 34901 .. +727 ... +2.1

AUTO THEFT ... .. ... 9605 .. 8676 .. -929 ... -9.7

TOTAL .. .. .. .. .. 75025 . 76871 . +1846 ... +2.5

* Homicides through late yesterday had reached a record 354 deaths.

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