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Baltimore City Crime Report: Overall Violence Down, Murder Rates Up

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Overall, violent crime is down in Baltimore but murders are rising.

Mike Hellgren goes one-on-one with the mayor and the top cop.

“We’ve lost too many lives,” said Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.

The police commissioner and mayor spoke candidly about crime in Baltimore–noting this year there have been dramatic reductions in carjackings, rape and aggravated assaults.

But the murder rate is up 7.8 percent.  So far, 234 people have lost their lives in the city this year–compared to 217 last year and 197 in 2011.

“Our homicide number at 234 is unacceptable. Period. No excuses,” Batts said.

“On just about every other crime, you get a do-over. You get to make things right, but when you lose a life, that’s it,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “In my own family, I lost one of my cousins to violence this year.”

“The overarching priority is to bring to Baltimore the transformation that I believe is possible when it comes to violent crime,” the mayor said.

So how does Baltimore’s murder rate compare to other cities? Washington, D.C. is up 20 percent, Philadelphia is down 37 percent,  Chicago is down 17 percent, Los Angeles is down 13 percent and New York City is down 25 percent.

“We’ve seen in my time as mayor reductions in crime, but not the transformation that I know people want and that is possible,” the mayor said.

The murder that pushed Baltimore’s total over last year happened off a small street just off Park Heights Avenue last month. Rodney Smith was just 26 when someone shot him in the back and left him to die in the trash.

“These are human beings,” Batts said. “Eighty percent of the people who are shot out there are African-American males involved in the drug game.”

Both say disrupting gangs like the Black Guerrilla Family that was running a drug empire from the Baltimore City Detention Center caused some chaos. And there’s renewed focus on the troubled western district.

“You drop the western district, dramatically you’re going to drop those homicides,” Batts said. “I’m talking about clichés like ‘enough is enough,’ but you have to have that dramatic change that the community says ‘I’m not losing my babies anymore.’”

Batts also says he has lost a lot of valuable officers this year. The rate of attrition is more than 30 percent and he has to fill those gaps.

The commissioner says citizen complaints against officers have been almost cut in half this year.

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