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Baltimore Has Lowest Murder Rate In 34 Years

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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WJZ Looks Back On Schaefer's 'Crabby Days'

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As we begin the remembrance of William Donald Schaefer this week, WJZ is taking a look back at the lighter side of the former mayor and governor.

Ron Matz reports many may remember the "Willie Don Crab."

In August 2005, the Willie Don Crab made its appearance in front of the Canton Safeway.

Then the state comptroller, we found William Donald Schaefer in Fells Point to get his reaction.

"I'm crabby all the time, 23 out of 24 and the other hour I sleep. But it's an honor to be picked out and have your photograph taken and have it go on a crab," said Schaefer.

Schaefer loved the work of artist Jerry Breen, and the fact the crabs were being auctioned to benefit Baltimore City schools.

"They're nice, anything for promotion of the city is nice. I like it. It made me too handsome and put hair on my head. The guy who did it gave me hair and I like that man," said Schaefer.

Many other people liked the crabs around town.

"I think it's a great piece of work. He was a great governor and a great mayor," said Abe Lindemann, from Canton.

The Willie Don Crab was purchased by a local real estate developer and later installed on the parking lot of the East Side Courthouse on North Avenue.

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore achieved something that hasn’t happened in 34 years: fewer than 200 murders. So has the city turned the corner on its violent past?

Mike Hellgren has the crime numbers and what they mean.

While murders are down, not all crimes are. The commissioner tells WJZ he’s continuing a focus on getting guns out of the hands of felons.

Crime tape and bullet markers proved far too common in Baltimore. TV dramas immortalized the city’s violent reputation nationwide as the number of murders marched toward 400 a year in the 1990s. But violent crime has dropped in recent years and in 2011, the city had 196 murders—the lowest number since 1977.

“Especially here in the Highlandtown area, we’d seen a lot of gunshots. It seems like it’s a lot more quiet now,” said Dan Logsdon, who’s lived in Baltimore for 12 years.

But not everyone is feeling safer. Dakeitra Green has lived in Baltimore her entire life.

“I think it’s the same, basically. I really do,” she said. “You’ve got to try to protect everybody at the same time.”

“Until people can look out their window and feel that sense of security, we haven’t done our job,” said Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.

The city says violent crime was down six percent and murders were down 12 percent last year. But the news isn’t all good. Total crime is actually up one percent, fueled by an increase in property crime—up four percent—incidents like car break-ins.

“If you could give the teenagers and young adults something to do so they don’t have time to get into crime,” said Tom Bowen.

The commissioner says he remains focused on getting guns off the streets, including working with federal authorities to target out-of-state supply chains.

“And cutting them out and eliminating them from being the source for our violence,” Bealefeld said.

He hopes to achieve more reductions in this new year.

Many U.S. cities are recording lower murder rates, including Washington, D.C., which saw 108 murders in 2011.

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