Amid worries across the country that worsening relationships between communities and police will allow violence to rise, the worst already seems to be coming true in Baltimore. Shootings are up dramatically compared with this time last year, following this spring’s riots over the death of Freddie Gray, with the long Memorial Day weekend proving especially deadly. At least 29 people were shot, with nine killed, over the three-day weekend, the city’s CBS affiliate reports.
City councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke attributed the continuing bloodshed to the unrest following the Freddie Gray Riots. “It was an earthquake kind of time and I think we’re still dealing with the aftershock,” she said.
Last week, the Baltimore Sun reported that “at least 19 people were shot across the city” in just two days. Three of the shooting victims were killed. The newspaper counted 22 murders in Baltimore’s Western District in the first five months of 2015, already surpassing 2014’s yearly total of 21 homicides. As shootings and murder numbers skyrocket in the Western District, the Daily Beast reports, overall arrests in Baltimore are down in the weeks since Gray died. The city has seen “more than a murder per day” since the riots, while the latest data for a week shows only 339 people arrested — just half the number who were arrested in the seven-day period before Gray died while in police custody.
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Does that explain the violence? Residents are speculating that police have been more reluctant to patrol their beats aggressively in the weeks since the riots. According to the Sun, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts denied there’s been a work “slowdown.” But he did suggest they’re having a harder time doing their jobs, saying his officers have been surrounded by hostile crowds “with handheld cameras that they’re sticking in the faces of officers, an inch off the officer’s face” while on patrol.
As violence spreads, including an incident Monday night where a nine-year-old boy was shot in the leg, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the mayhem “extremely frustrating” and “disheartening.” Rawlings-Blake, whose management of the unrest following Gray’s death was criticized, said that she is still “resolved to continue to reduce violent crime in our city.”
One hundred and eight people have died due to violence in the city since the beginning of the year.