FBI data: Crime declines in Baltimore, nation

City retains fifth highest murder rate despite drop

May 23, 2011|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Despite a nearly across-the-board decline in crime, Baltimore maintained the fifth-highest homicide rate in the country last year, according to preliminary data released Monday by the FBI.

Nationwide, crime dropped for the fourth straight year, continuing to defy predictions that crime would rise during a recession. Violent crime declined 5.5 percent last year compared with 2009, while property crimes dropped 2.8 percent.

In Baltimore, violent crime declined 3.6 percent, and the city ranked seventh in violent crime per 100,000 residents. Property crime in the city, meanwhile, dropped 3 percent.

The FBI cautions against comparing cities because of factors such as population density.

Baltimore's persistently high homicide numbers, along with overall gun violence, have been on the decline for the past three years, and last year fell at a greater rate than the national average. But the city has remained one of the deadliest in the country as others have experienced similar or more pronounced drops.

Baltimore, which was also fifth in the homicide rate in 2009, last year trailed only New Orleans, Flint, Mich., St. Louis and Detroit. Detroit also saw a steep decline in homicides but couldn't shake its top-five ranking.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but are making progress in reducing violence," said Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

According to the FBI statistics:

•Homicides in Baltimore dropped from 238 to 223, giving the city its lowest rate since the late 1980s even after being adjusted for population declines.

•Rapes increased 67 percent, from 158 in 2009 to 265 in 2010. The difference is largely attributed to a change in the way police classify rapes, spurred by a report in The Baltimore Sun revealing the city had for years led the country in the percentage of rape claims deemed "unfounded" by detectives. An audit found that over 18 months, 50 percent of reports had been misclassified.

•Robberies declined from 3,707 in 2009 to 3,336 in 2010, a drop of 10 percent. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III had said the department would focus on reducing robberies in 2010.

For overall violent crime, Baltimore appeared to trail only Flint, Detroit, St. Louis, New Haven, Conn., Memphis, Tenn., and Oakland, Calif.

Two cities that reported high rates of violence last year, Baton Rouge, La., and Birmingham, Ala., did not appear in this week's data. The FBI data also used population figures that differ from recently released 2010 census results.

The statistics are based on information from more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies but do not include any other Maryland cities.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com



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