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Baltimore on pace to experience at least 300 homicides for seventh year in a row

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Emily Sullivan/WYPR
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Baltimore City Hall. At a Wednesday crime stats hearing, city officials said Baltimore is on pace to experience more than 300 homicides for the seventh year in a row.

Baltimore is on pace to experience more than 300 homicides for the seventh year in a row, city officials said at a quarterly crime statistics hearing Wednesday.

“Today, we’re close to 260 homicides reported for the year,” Councilman Mark Conway said before the Public Safety Committee. “If we don't change course, inject some sense of urgency in how we're addressing crime, more families will continue to leave the city and those that remain will continue to live in unease and fear.”

The 300-homicide benchmark has been a systemic problem for Baltimore since the killing of Freddie Gray in 2015, when violent crime first rose to numbers unexperienced since the 1990s — when the city’s population was 100,000 stronger.

Col. Kevin Jones, the Baltimore Police Department’s chief of patrol operations, said that the agency is seeking ways to bolster support for residents returning from incarceration, who he said are involved in much of the city’s violent crime.

“We definitely are reaching out as best as we can to identify those best practices to get them re-acclimated to society, be it jobs, be it a driver's license, be it education, be it whatever they need,” he said.

Officials also spoke of Mayor Brandon Scott’s decision to restart the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, a form of focused deterrence that city officials tried to no avail in the 1990s and in 2014. Shantay Jackson, the Director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, who oversees GVRS, told the council that community, grassroots, city, state and federal strategy partners are committed to the teamwork and sense of urgency required to turn trends around.

“We tried to do this before,” Jackson said. “And it's going to be more critical than ever that we continue to have the political will that's necessary to push this forward and that we don't get distracted.”