By Cristina Mendez

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore is closing a somber chapter of crime in 2021. The Baltimore Police Department released the year-to-date homicide and non-fatal shooting rates Friday.

This last year, the agency confirms there were 337 homicides. That’s two more lives lost than in 2020. Similarly, non-fatal shootings also increased. In 2021, there were 726, while the year before tallied 721.

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As we reflect on the numbers that make up those who were murdered. There are mothers, church members and those who protect and serve our communities. The shooting also took a toll on the youth of the city.

But there’s hope for the future, according to one Safe Streets leader.

“Right now, we’ve gone over a year without a homicide in the Safe Streets Bel Air-Edison zone,” said Dante Johnson, a site director in the northeast Baltimore neighborhood.

The city’s Safe Streets program aims to reduce gun violence and homicides. Members are trained in conflict mediation, counseling and mentorship.

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Johnson has been a leader in the program since 2019 in part of the Bel Air-Edison neighborhood, one of at least 10 targeted areas in Baltimore.

The Safe Streets team works with residents, business owners, schools and community partners to help those at high risk of becoming a perpetrator or victim.

“To connect them with life-changing services to help them overcome some barriers like employment, ID, birth certificate services, workforce development and GED classes,” said Johnson.

On Saturday, Mayor Brandon Scott will start the new year by streaming a virtual vigil to remember all of the loved ones lost in 2021 to violence, overdose, COVID-19 and suicide. The vigil will be streamed on Mayor Scott’s Facebook page starting at 6:30 p.m.

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“I believe that residents in the City of Baltimore should have a mantra of ‘this is a city that heals,’” Johnson said.

Cristina Mendez