The Most Murderous East Coast City: Baltimore, MD

East Coast City With the Highest Murder Rate: Baltimore MD

Despite being comparable to a small country in terms of square miles, Maryland has a grand East Coast reputation for its beautiful farms, beaches, and nature. One thing its not known for, however, is its crime reputation in Baltimore, which also happens to be one of its largest tourism centers.

At approximately 81 square miles, Baltimore may be one of the smallest cities in the nation based on land size. It boasts a rich agricultural and urban history with a population in the millions and several major tourist attractions every year. Baltimore’s mixed reputation in its history, culture, and tourism overshadows it is in fact one of the most dangerous cities on the East Coast in terms of violent crime.

The major reasons for Baltimore’s high violent crime rates as of late is the result of several reasons:

  1. There are roughly 560k residents are below the poverty line
  2. Recent racial unrest following the killing of Freddie Gray
  3. Arrests plummeted following the charges against Freddie Gray, which may have led to an increase in overall homicides by 63%.

Here’s what that means.

A photo of Baltimore police intercepting a crime.

Baltimore’s violent crime has increased over the years, most likely as a result of racial unrest in more poor areas.


560k Residents Below the Poverty Line

Poverty affects every individual and neighborhood differently. However, it’s true that poverty does attract many issues, including violent crime. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that households below the poverty line were more than twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime than higher-income households. 

That would explain why the poverty-ridden sides of Baltimore have been so deeply affected by violent crime. Indeed, the neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty appear to be the most targeted. Unfortunately, these areas also face the least investment and funds by the city of Baltimore. 

But not the poor or the lack of funds have driven Baltimore’s violent crime rates up so high in recent years. It’s the racial unrest and political corruption the area has been facing. 


The Killing of Freddie Gray (2015)

In 2015 Baltimore was stunned by the murder of Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray was a 25-year-old African American arrested and fatally injured by the Baltimore Police Department.

Photo of Freddie Gray

A photo of Freddie Cray, c. 2015.

Freddie Gray was confronted by the police during the early morning hours of April 12, 2015 near the Gilmor Homes housing project. The area had a reputation for crime and had even been flagged by the police for the need for “enhanced” drug enforcement. 


Gray’s Charges

Gray was walking through the neighborhood when he was spotted by three police officers–Lieutenant Brian W. Rice, Officer Edward Nero, and Officer Garrett Miller. According to the documents submitted by the police, Gray proceeded to “flee on foot, unprovoked, upon noticing police presence.” Gray was taken into custody “without the use of force or incident” according to statements made by Officer Miller. Further statements by Officer Miller explained Gray was charged for carrying a knife he had noticed clipped to Gray’s front right pocket. According to the statements, the knife was considered “unlawful” to carry, possess, or sell within the limits of Baltimore City. However, it was later announced that Gray was carrying a spring-assisted knife that was legal under Maryland law.


The aftermath

If the videos had never been posted on social media, justice may never have come to Gray. On a bittersweet note, Baltimore’s violent crime problem may have never taken shape. The released videos, taken by bystanders, showed Gray being “folded” by one of the officers while another held Gray down by pressing on his neck –Gray desperately gasped he “couldn’t walk” or use his legs. A witness also saw police beating Gray with batons. 

Among many of the other allegations, including that Gray was subjected to a rough ride, the officers were eventually charged and sentenced to prison for murder charges. Within the following week, the 25-year-old boy had suffered a fatal cardiopulmonary arrest that he never fully recovered from. In a coma, he underwent extensive surgery to save his life, including surgery to repair his fractured vertebrae, voice box injuries, and his spine (particularly at his neck). It was the 80% severed spine at his neck that ultimately resulted in his death on April 19, 2015. 


Baltimore’s Law Enforcement Turmoil

The killing of Freddie Gray created racial unrest that resulted in a spike in riots and looting over the following month. The high profile nature of Gray’s case led Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby to charge the six officers the death sentence of suspected police brutality, which included the alleged rough ride that could have paralyzed Gray and led to his death. 

In an interview with The Guardian, former police reporter David Simon noted that while this decision did bring Gray and his family justice, it also incited fear in the hearts and minds of the Baltimore police department. It sent a message to the police department that a bad arrest meant being put in jail–or worse, charged with murder. 

“[It made officers say] ‘I can go to jail for making the wrong arrest, so I’m not getting out of my car to clear a corner,’ and that’s exactly what happened post-Freddie Gray.” -David Simon, The Guardian

The data showing homicides increased by 63% over the previous year (211 in 2014 to 344 in 2015) and the immediate 50% decrease in overall arrests may be evidence to support Simon’s point. 

This was outlined further in Simon’s own HBO miniseries We Own This City aired in April 2022. Tragically, homicide rates have been the highest they’ve been since 2015 and have not decreased whatsoever, even peaking at their highest in recent years. 


How We Help

The National Crime Scene Cleanup (NCSC) provides crime scene and homicide cleanups to the city of Baltimore as well as the entire area on the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. NCSC is stationed all across the United States and fully ready to service any homicide or blood cleanup situation. Give us a call today if you’re in the Baltimore area or need a cleanup in any area of the USA.

Additional Statistics on Baltimore MD Crime

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