For the third consecutive year (2017), Baltimore City, Maryland, has had between 319-343 homicides, making it the most dangerous city in America.
The Ferguson effect joined together with an out of control opioid crisis has been the driving force in violent crime, turning the city into a complete mess with some labeling it a war-zone. On top of the death and despair, Baltimore gained national attention during the 2015 riots, after Freddie Gray, a young black male was arrested and died in police custody. Needless to say, there are much larger trends at play, including 50-years of failed Democratic leadership and decades of de-industrialization, which have ultimately given today’s war-zone a silver patter to thrive.
The Reverend Kinji Scott, a pastor in Baltimore who’s held various positions in local government, recently spoke with Lauren Frayer, an NPR journalist, on the current environment in Baltimore. Scott clearly describes the city as a war-zone and said, “we have broad daylight shootings–all over the city.”
He’s among a group of activist who believes the higher homicide rate is due to a relaxation of police patrols following the Ferguson effect and the death of Freddy Gray. “We wanted the police there,” Scott said. “We wanted them engaged in the community. We didn’t want them beating the hell out of us, we didn’t want that.” Scott believes real change will come when the black community forms strong relationships with the police; however, that has yet to happen.
When asked if he’s optimistic for 2018, this is what Scott had to say:
I am not. Because I look at the conclusion of 2017, these same cities — St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Chicago — these same black cities are still bleeding to death and we’re still burying young men in these cities.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity by NPR.
On the current state of community safety in Baltimore
When you think about young people who are out here facing these economic challenges and are homeless and living places that are uncertain, and you’re a parent — you’re scared. Not just for yourself really, but for your children.
The average age of a homicidal victim in Baltimore City right now is 31 years old. We had a young man who attended one of the prime high schools, [Baltimore Polytechnic Institute], Jonathan Tobash, and he was 19 years old, he was a Morgan State student. And he was killed on his way to the store. That’s the state of Baltimore right now.
On whether the community wanted police to back off after the death of Freddie Gray
No. That represented our progressives, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians, but it did not represent the overall community. Because we know for a fact that around the time Freddie Gray was killed, we start to see homicides increase. We had five homicides in that neighborhood while we were protesting.
What I wanted to see happen was that people would be able to trust the relationship with our police department so that they would feel more comfortable. We’d have conversations with the police about crime in their neighborhood because they would feel safer. So we wanted the police there. We wanted them engaged in the community. We didn’t want them beating the hell out of us, we didn’t want that.
On whether the high murder rate is unique to Baltimore
It’s not. I lost my brother in St. Louis in 2004; just lost my cousin in Chicago. No it’s not unique, and that’s the horrible thing.