Ted Miller, principal research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, has developed a model to estimate medical costs of crime victims. Using his model, Baltimore accounted for an estimated $12.4 million through June 16 - a rate that would amount to $25 million annually.
Using a different model, crime-related hospitalizations in Baltimore accounted for $38 million in 2006, according to the state Health Services Cost Review Commission, with more than half paid with taxpayer dollars.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Sunday's editions mischaracterized two figures on crime in Baltimore. Violent crime as a whole in Baltimore in 2006 was down from 2005, but homicides increased by 2.6 percent, from 269 murders in 2005 to 276 in 2006.
THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR
Those in economic and business circles fear that even the perception of greater crime could hurt development.
"Everything is exploding all over the city. It looks great," said Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman of both 1st Mariner Bank and the city's visitor's bureau. "But right over your shoulder, you have all this crime going on."
The city plays an essential role in shaping the region's reputation, said Basu, the economist. Whenever there are national stories about urban crime, Baltimore is frequently mentioned, he noted. "This has an effect of branding the region," Basu said. "The region has a stake in seeing Baltimore City address these issues."
Others involved in selling the city - from sports teams attracting free agents to colleges seeking new students to investors pushing development projects and real estate - say crime has not curtailed the boom.
"I've never spoken with anybody who gave crime a second thought," said Olive Waxter, director of Hippodrome Foundation, the nonprofit presenter of shows at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center on North Eutaw Street.
In May, the average city home sold three days faster than the average home in the entire Baltimore region, according to figures from the Rockville-based Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.
"You can point to neighborhoods all around the city where five years ago, you almost couldn't sell a house," said Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
C. William Struever, a developer, said though crime is less of an issue now, "that's not to diminish" the importance of dealing it. "There's great peril that I think we all face if we don't address the issues underlying crime," he said.
Two main causes
Police cite two main reasons for the spike in crime: gangs and guns.
While the vast majority of Baltimore gangs remain tight-knit local crews, many have been organizing under the banners of national criminal groups such as the Bloods and Crips, Bealefeld said.
School police have identified 33 gangs, including at least nine Bloods sets and three Crips sets, in the school system. Children as young as 12 years old have affiliated with gangs, school police officials say.
Police say the growth of gangs has encouraged more brazen violence over drug trade territory, initiation rites and colors. This spring, a top California Bloods gang member was convicted of killing a 19-year-old in West Baltimore who had not followed gang rules.
Yet convictions can be difficult to obtain. Residents fear drug dealers more than they fear police and prosecutors, so they seldom testify against criminals. Those picked for juries often distrust police, say judges, particularly when they or their relatives have been locked up in the past.
"The defendants are less and less afraid of the law. They are convinced that if they can get their case to a jury, they'll be found not guilty," said Circuit Judge John M. Glynn. "And that happens often enough to give credence to their view."
Stopping guns is paramount.
Most guns in Baltimore come from licensed stores. One gun shop, Bealefeld said, accounted for 60 handguns seized in 2007.
The city has arrested 60 people this year for murder, Bealefeld said, and nearly half had been previously arrested for prior gun offenses.
Gangs and guns are a combustible mix amid failed family structures: fathers in prison, mothers on drugs, teenagers having babies.
"We have grandparents who are 38 years old; a lot of them are under 50," said Quadre M. Washington, a vice president of Black Professional Men, a mentoring group. "Hopelessness can be passed through the generations."
When legitimate means of making money dry up, many in poor neighborhoods turn to the drug trade, experts say.
"It's not just people misbehaving," said Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, senior lecturer in sociology at Princeton University. "[Crime] is not a crazy response to conditions. It may be amoral, but it is explainable."
The escalating violence has forced police officers to defend themselves this year far more than last year. In the first six months of 2007, police have shot and killed six people and have discharged their weapons nine times. Over the same period last year, they killed one person and were involved in five nonfatal shootings.
"This violence has really hit home," said Paul M. Blair Jr., president of Baltimore's Fraternal Order of Police.