A deadly year on the streets of Baltimore DRUGS, VIOLENCE AND DEATH

January 08, 1995|By Michael James

While the city's homicide record was not broken in 1994, the year was one of Baltimore's deadliest, leaving many neighborhoods with vivid images of violence that have become an all-too familiar picture.

In at least one city neighborhood, drug-related violence has become such a way of life that children with toy guns play "drug dealers" instead of cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians.

The shootings have had a numbing effect on many who see them day in and day out. Slayings are often considered inevitabilities rather than tragedies.

Baltimore experienced its most murderous years in 1992 and 1993 -- with 335 and 353 slayings, respectively.

In 1994, residents found reason for hope because only 321 people were slain. It was a year punctuated by nine slayings in a December weekend and a bloody stretch in which 74 victims were slain in just 64 days. It was a year that saw a 10-year-old boy charged as an adult in the shotgun slaying of his best friend. Yet, hope glimmered in the hearts of Baltimoreans because the city failed to set its third consecutive homicide record.

Police and city officials throughout the year pointed to the "decline" in violence. Baltimore's new police commissioner remarked that the murders "aren't happening at the rate of one a day" -- a good sign, he said, because it meant the numbers were decreasing.

Statistics for 1994 showed a continuation of the patterns of previous years. Roughly 90 percent of the victims, ranging in age from 1 to 95, were black. Handguns were used in about 76 percent of the killings. In all, more than 1,500 people -- at least 300 fewer than the previous year -- were shot, mostly in street disputes and drug-related violence.

Trying to get a feel for what those numbers represent, Sun photographer Andre Lambertson hit the streets in 1994 to document the effects of violence.

For those who want to see them, the images are there: a teen-age boy with a bullet in his back; a man covered by a sheet; a body lying in a coffin as a mother weeps nearby.

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