BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As she has done for several years, Daphne Alston read the names of Baltimore City’s homicide victims inside the March Funeral Home on North Avenue.
She lost her own son, Tariq Alston, to violence more than a decade ago and now heads the memorial with her organization Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters United.
“We all are traumatized. We have to put up a fight,” Alston told the mourners.
She lamented that the funeral home chapel was less than half full and urged the community to take the “epidemic of violence” seriously.
Reading all 348 names took more than an hour at the vigil. The 348 homicide victims are the second-highest total in the city’s history and the rate breaks a record when adjusted for the shrinking population.
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Among the names were former standout basketball player Gerald Brown; four-year-old Malachi Lawson, who was burned and found in a dumpster; Bailey Reeves, a transgender teenager killed over Labor Day weekend; Sherman Reed, Jr., the son of Coppin State University’s head basketball coach; Manuel Luis, a sophomore at Morgan State University and 21-year-old Destiny Harrison, who was shot to death in her east Baltimore salon four days before Christmas.
Many people whose loved ones were killed in the past came to pay their respects.
As the years go by, Victory Swift said it doesn’t get any easier. Her son Victorous was murdered in 2017.
“Some of the names we read today were grandparents. Some were babies. This has to stop,” Swift said.
Fewer than one-third of these murders have been solved. The city’s homicide clearance rate stands at 31 percent for 2019.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said he is working to add staff to the homicide unit to handle the cases. There were 771 non-fatal shootings in Baltimore in 2019.
BPD statistics show most victims — 311 — were men; 138 of them were between ages 25 and 34. 238 suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Two-hundred six of the killings happened in the street.
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) January 1, 2020
At the end of the vigil, mourners held hands in unity, hoping fewer families in 2020 will feel their pain.
“This beast leaves no one untouched,” Swift said. “It’s all of our responsibility, and if you think it’s not, then it’s time to think again.”