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The coronavirus pandemic and surveillance plane have not stemmed Baltimore's torrid rate of homicides this year

Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- Not continuing calls by residents to end the violence, not the launch of a police surveillance plane, not even the coronavirus pandemic have slowed Baltimore's relentless pace of homicides. Approaching the year's halfway point, more people have been killed in the city than during 2019, which had the highest homicide rate on record.

The stay-at-home orders have not abated the killings, even though crime in most other categories has dipped, according to police and crime statistics. And now, with restrictive health measures easing and the historically violent summer months arriving, Baltimore police are working to come up with solutions.

"The bad actors who are committing murders are still out," said Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said.

Baltimore has counted 164 homicides this year, more than 152 at this time last year when the city eventually saw a 348. The Northwestern and Southwestern districts have been the hardest hit, with 27 and 26 homicides, respectively.

So far in June, 35 people have been killed, including Shiand Miller, 23, and her 3-year-old daughter Shaniya Gilmore. Miller was 8 months pregnant with a baby boy when she was fatally shot in Southwest Baltimore on June 19.

The city has a new tool in its efforts to stem violence. A pilot program started in May launched a police surveillance plane, which flies over the city during daylight hours in an effort to help investigate and track suspects in serious cases and, hopefully, police say, act as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

 

Harrison said in a recent interview that the program has not yet led to any arrests, but it has shown some promise.

"As of this moment, it has not turned into any clearance of any homicides or shootings, although there are a number of cases that are captured," Harrison said.

The controversial program, however, has led to the production of 44 "evidentiary packets," which are forwarded to detectives investigating homicides and other serious crimes.

"I am keeping an open mind. I had no expectations about the program," said Harrison, adding he wants to hear from researchers who are supposed to evaluate the project at the end of its six-month pilot, which runs until the fall.

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