The Real News Correspondents Taya Graham and Megan Sherman ask the community about the recent spike in the city’s homicide rate
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TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: Baltimore’s stubborn penchant for violence has continued into June, with 13 more murders adding to the tally of 42 deaths in May alone, Baltimore’s deadliest month in decades, which has resulted in a 40 percent increase in deaths over last year. But beyond the human toll symbolized in yellow tape at crime scenes strewn across the city is the narrative of the violence itself. CARL STOKES, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN, 12TH DISTRICT: It’s not any one answer, obviously. And the spike is not because there’s enough drugs on the street to keep the city high for a year. Actually it’s because the criminal element has become bolder and emboldened by a change in the strategy in terms of policing. GRAHAM: And in particular, why in a city which spends the bulk of its budget on law enforcement, a city with the second-largest police department per capita in the country, the murders continue unabated. Part of the answer proffered by the police is the same litany of ills, drugs and dysfunction. Specifically, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, who said last week an influx of oxycodone looted from pharmacies during the riots over the death of Freddie Gray, have initiated a violent turf war. GRAHAM: But residents of the city who spoke to The Real News Network say the root cause of the violence is more complex, that the mayhem which permeates their lives is deeply rooted in the psyche of a community that has been suffering from economic neglect and civic hopelessness for decades. TANIKA ROGERS, COLLEGE STUDENT: The murder rate is going to be our murder rate regardless. You get kids getting killed, parents getting killed, so the murder rate don’t have nothing to do with the looting. The drugs, it don’t have nothing to do with the drugs. We don’t have nothing for these, no outlet for [inaud.] in the communities. So it’s not the looting. GRAHAM: And that the sense of despair is so entrenched that the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence is no longer a deterrent. SEAN, COMMUNITY MEMBER: And then you’ve got to figure there’s someone got the attitude I don’t care. They get 30 years, they can do, they can do 20. And still come [on] 40, 35. GRAHAM: Not all, however, dispute the importance of policing. In fact, some say the violence is the result of police being less aggressive after the indictment of six officers in the death of Gray. COMMUNITY MEMBER: I think they’re kind of shying away from, because of fear for losing their jobs, and possibly getting convicted. GRAHAM: A case which has continued to generate controversy when defense lawyers revealed in a recent motion filed on Monday that the office of the city state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby had asked officers to target an area for enhanced drug enforcement, just near where Freddie Gray’s encounter with police resulted in his death. Still, residents believe police strategies or drug wars will make little difference unless the people who run the city begin to listen, and offer support and hope in communities where death and despair live side by side. ROGERS: It’s from our mayor. She ain’t doing her job. She just, she don’t know nothing. She don’t know nothing. Our community needs–we don’t have no recreation centers, we don’t have nothing for these kids to do, and we don’t have no pools. What do they have for the kids to do, either selling drugs–locking them up for a bag of weed. Education, they don’t want to put no money into the school system. No books, no nothing. Our mayor is, we need a new mayor. We need a new mayor. GRAHAM: Taya Graham reporting with Megan Sherman for The Real News in Baltimore.
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