344
January 6, 2016 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Baltimore's City Paper came out today with a list of all 344 people murdered in the Baltimore City this year with a small description of each incident. "The editorial staff at City Paper looked to the Vietnam Memorial for inspiration this week for the following reasons: Because almost every day the police department announces the latest homicide, because every week the paper runs the death tally in Murder Ink, because there were more homicides this year than in the previous 22, because the numbers keep rising, because each single homicide is the story of a life with a ripple effect on a family and neighborhood, because we wish we could do a proper obituary for each person killed but lack the editorial resources, because we wish to acknowledge each death, because we are hopeful that cumulative murders and the visual impact of sheer numbers and names will move readers to action, because we have faith in this city and its ability to do so much better than it does, because we hope people will be shocked out of their complacency, because something has to change, we have dedicated this entire issue to a list of the 344 murders in Baltimore this year. There will be no arts coverage, no columns, no photos. We are in mourning."
posted by josher71 (39 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think this is a good and socially responsible thing that City Paper has done, but I fear their hope that "people will be shocked out of their complacency" is unrealistic. If Sandy Hook couldn't shock America out of complacency I don't see how this list will make a difference. I genuinely wish it would. And for the 344 families coping with the violent death of a loved one, I hope I am wrong and the good people of Baltimore will find a way to end the carnage. #Enough
posted by pjsky at 8:16 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've barely started to read and I am struck by how many victims are found shot through the head, lying in the street, or in a car, or in their houses. Only a few mention an investigation or arrest.

This one hurt a lot:

4. 9:15 a.m. Police found a man and a boy in the backseat of a vehicle on the 1900 block of 62nd Street, right on the city’s eastern border with Baltimore County. Both were dead from gunshots to the head, and police say it was a murder-suicide. The younger victim was Matthew Arnell Thomas, an 11-year-old African-American boy, shot by his father, Warren Thomas, before Thomas shot himself. They had been reported missing as of Jan. 1.
posted by emjaybee at 8:22 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Simply put: Baltimore seemingly will never change.
The 5-season The Wire gave a wonderful look at what the city was like, before the recent police shooting and indictments of police officers.

Prior to that great series, the Sun writer DAVID SIMON who put that series on the air wrote a terrific book about Baltimore: HOMICIDE : A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS. The stats remain the same now as back then.
posted by Postroad at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


If not that, then what?

This is a problem that, for many of us, is far too easy to ignore.

In a world where the media increasingly exists to comfort us, and confirm our preexisting biases, we need to make these things impossible to ignore.

This is especially true in Baltimore where the city's very fabric was deliberately engineered so that wealthy Caucasians could be insulated from the effects of poverty that was often literally in their own back yards.

Newsrooms with a conscience need to keep putting this on the front pages. Protesters need to keep blocking highways and disrupting gated communities. Make it clear that the problems affecting society are not just for other people to worry about.
posted by schmod at 8:26 AM on January 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


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posted by cacofonie at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2016 [5 favorites]




Made it to Valentines day before i had to stop reading (for now) . . .
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:37 AM on January 6, 2016


And from the Washington Post: ‘He is not a statistic’: Here are the stories of 12 of the District’s 162 homicide victims – one for each month of a violent year.

The stories tell a bit about the deaths, but they focus on the lives that were lost:

"Charles Hatcherson ... would keep CNBC turned on at nearly all hours and shouted back at Jim Cramer."

"Melendez was known as 'Don Pedrito,' an amicable neighbor who once offered a pregnant neighbor a ride. She gave birth in his Chevy’s back seat."

"Dwayne Gene Dillard ... would bring home shrimp or crabs from the Wharf in Southwest or wake the household at 2 a.m. as he cooked his signature maple bacon and eggs."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


If Sandy Hook couldn't shock America out of complacency I don't see how this list will make a difference. I genuinely wish it would.

If someone would have the courage to public the crime scene photos of those children, it might be a watershed. Words may not have the required power, but pictures of elementary school kids missing their jaws and eviscerated by automatic weapons fire might. It's ghastly, but that's where we find ourselves in the US.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


By my count, all but about 46 of these homicides involved shooting. (The 46 include mostly stabbings, child abuse/neglect, as well as a few deaths by unknown trauma.) This means more than 86% of the deaths were caused by gunfire. It strikes me that if somehow ammunition became extremely expensive tomorrow, we might have around 80% fewer needless deaths next year. Sorry if I'm not being mathematically careful enough.
posted by TreeRooster at 9:23 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ammo will not become very expensive for the same reason that guns are readily available...the NRA caters to the gun industry, and that means lobbyists have made both guns and ammo readily available. Just look at the most recent spike in gun sales when Obama announced a new initiative to make gun background checks work better. Israel, in passing, does have limits on ammo sales. But then that nation does not have a gun issue for murders and suicides than comes close to ours.

Posting daily killings as the Sun has done merely highlights how bad things are in Baltimore. If as one comment has it, the city has carefully segregated itself, is Baltimore the only city to do this?
Why do we seem to have cities like Baltimore and Chicago with so many murders? Are there cities with much less but also with many at the poverty level and many minority citizens? If so, how do they avoid becoming like Baltimore?
posted by Postroad at 9:45 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


if you enjoyed this you might also enjoy 2666 by roberto bolaño

(you get the same disgust, a sense that you owe it to someone to keep reading, and finally feel useless)
posted by andrewcooke at 9:47 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If as one comment has it, the city has carefully segregated itself, is Baltimore the only city to do this?

Not at all. Via this Detroit Free Press article, both using this map as the basis.
posted by frimble at 9:54 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Baltimore Sun has a bing map. (Druid Hill Ave looks pretty shady.)

Also they have the map pins color-coded. Looks like guns are the weapon of choice.
posted by bukvich at 9:56 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you feel the need to use a bullet on someone, how much should that cost? Sure, there are some bullets used for target practice (so just use pellet guns), and some for hunting, but we should be able to find a nice weighted average. I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt to tax 'em up to a nice round $200 apiece, and then maybe that parking spot or wallet wouldn't look so valuable. Not to mention, it might make the next mass shooter bring a clip or two less.
posted by TreeRooster at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


"This year" refers to 2015, in case you're wondering.
posted by spinda at 10:04 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I came in this thread ready to post Justin Fenton's homicide piece. The Sun's website is terrible and part three isn't linked to properly. Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in a(n apparently representative) picture of why it's so difficult to clear homicides in this city.

schmod, murders are already on the front page here in Baltimore pretty much every day. Something like this helps emphasize the gravity of the situation, but if you live here, it hasn't been possible to ignore the staggering violence of the past year (previously on Metafilter). It's not just murders, either. All violent crime is up. Last year I was robbed by two guys while walking home late at night on North Avenue. A few months later I was robbed at gunpoint by four teenagers in my relatively safe, mostly white neighborhood. In November I was attacked by six preteens across the street from the train station. That's all to say that I feel acutely aware that the violence in the city is also my problem, and not just in a symbolic sense.

When it comes down to it, though, this year has made me feel increasingly skeptical that most people here are really in a position to change anything. This city is broken in a very deep way.

It starts with the way that the city is set up. We're one of the few American cities not to belong to a county, and one of the results is that despite incredibly high property taxes (almost double those in D.C.), the city's revenue is just enough to tread water, but not enough to make the sort of investments necessary to improve the destroyed neighborhoods where the majority of these murders took place. The state just announced a $700 million program to combat urban decay here, which is an important start.

Our city government is a disaster. To me, the greatest disappointment of the entire year was our city's response to the police slowdown that followed April's rioting. Police strikes are rightly considered unacceptable, but as long as cops continue to show up at work, they can wink and pretend not to be on strike. Meanwhile, arrests dropped as much as 90% in many of the city's most violent neighborhoods during May and the first weeks of June. It took over six weeks and national media pressure for the city to announce that the cops who weren't doing their jobs would face consequences. Six weeks and more than sixty murders. The last time Baltimore had so much murder in such little time was the 1970s, when the city had hundreds of thousands more citizens. There are a lot of problems with policing in black neighborhoods here, but no sane person would say that those neighborhoods shouldn't be policed at all. The slowdown created a situation where folks knew that odds were better than ever that they could get away with murder. How did the city ultimately respond? By firing the police commissioner, whose willingness to work with politicians and acknowledge the department's shortcomings was considered unacceptable by the police union. Of course, he was replaced by a company man. The message of both the slowdown and political fallout was clear: the police department is ultimately an autonomous entity that doesn't answer to the citizens or the officials they've elected. I don't have a lot of faith that electing a better mayor will change very much.

The neighborhoods themselves are broken by the perverted system of economic incentives created by the drug war. I fully believe that the city can't be fixed without legalizing and regulating the sale of all drugs, something that is clearly not on the table in this country. Employment in the drug trade is an easy and relatively lucrative option for teenagers in the neighborhoods most hurt by violence here. It's dangerous, but just living in those neighborhoods is dangerous, and teenagers notoriously have little foresight. If your options are physical labor or fast food jobs with a commute and shit wage versus hanging out with your friends and selling drugs for considerably better money and status, it's understandable why many teens would choose the latter, especially those who need to work to supply their basic needs. If white teenagers had the same widespread and easy access to jobs in the drug trade and were in a position where selling drugs didn't appreciably diminish their perception of safety, they'd sell heroin too, and then maybe Congress would take an interest in the economic incentives prohibition has set up.

The economic and institutional problems this place faces are not ones that citizens are able to address, especially in the short term. Nearly everyone here knows that those problems are their problems. The people who need to do something in order for things to change are largely people for whom the problem is only theirs in an abstract sense, the people who live elsewhere and are only stakeholders here in that they live in the same state or country, and even then city government would remain paralyzed by institutional problems that defy short or medium term solutions.
posted by vathek at 10:22 AM on January 6, 2016 [28 favorites]


ryanshepard If someone would have the courage to publish the crime scene photos of those children, it might be a watershed.
This! YES x 100000000. I totally agree! I think the average American's complacency would be shattered if they were confronted with visual proof of the horrific nature of gun injuries/deaths. I would even propose that TV Shows and Movies should be required by law to show REALISTIC gun injuries in all the crap that gets called "entertainment" in the USA.
posted by pjsky at 10:37 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt to tax 'em up to a nice round $200 apiece, and then maybe that parking spot or wallet wouldn't look so valuable.

Guns work perfectly well as tools of violence even if you never shoot them. It seems like half the time they catch kids doing stickups here the gun is fake. Odds are good that most robbers wouldn't shoot you if you ran as it is, but the risk is too great to do anything other than act as if your life is in real danger any time someone is brandishing. There's no price on a bullet that could change that. It would be pretty cool if there were a solution this simple.
posted by vathek at 10:49 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


There was a sentence in the intro that I liked:

We are a divided city—by race and class yes, absolutely, but also divided between those who see the victims of violence as “the other” and those who see them as “us.”

344 murders is a tragedy, but it's easy to dismiss if you think that the majority of those killed are at least partly complicit, and a lot of people definitely do think that way.

It strikes me that if somehow ammunition became extremely expensive tomorrow, we might have around 80% fewer needless deaths next year.

I'm sure people have done actual case studies of this, but the biggest impact would likely be in raising the prices of common pistol calibers (9mm, .380, .45, etc). But it would only work to a point, because above some price point people would start to illegally import ammunition, and you would also need to tax or control the materials for reloading -- one person with a small reloading press can produce a lot of ammunition, given enough time. Prohibiting drugs has raised, rather than lowered, the level of violence, and I would worry about a similar perverse effect from harsh gun control measures.

I also suspect that in places where community guns are a thing, the cost of ammunition is not going to be the limiting factor.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:52 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


If someone would have the courage to publish the crime scene photos of those children, it might be a watershed.
Only in the sense that the lack of meaningful response would finally extinguish all hope of change.
posted by fullerine at 11:00 AM on January 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


It may not shock anyone out of their complacency - in one shot - but it does two things. First, I think it's a bit much to expect one story to change many people, but as part of a larger movement, it plays a role. Second, I think the stats here are an important window into the precise scope of the problem, although I'd be interested to see a count of the people who were killed specifically by Baltimore police. That would help put into perspective the number of cops who died in the line of duty.
posted by Edgewise at 11:08 AM on January 6, 2016


crtl-f "African-American".

.

Baltimore needs to ban guns.
posted by Catblack at 11:08 AM on January 6, 2016


Only in the sense that the lack of meaningful response would finally extinguish all hope of change.

I understand the sense of hopelessness people feel in the face of this - and after Sandy Hook I felt the same way for a while - but, to paraphrase Margaret Atwood, people once felt the same way about the divine right of kings. Social and political change, even in the face of hideous injustice and insanity, typically happens slowly, but will not happen at all unless many people, often over the course of generations, are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel.

None of the 17th c. Quakers that got the US abolition movement underway in earnest, for example, lived to see the abolition of slavery, and many of their contemporaries likely thought their cause was quixotic and hopeless - but here we are.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:14 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


> It strikes me that if somehow ammunition became extremely expensive tomorrow, we might have around 80% fewer needless deaths next year.

If "somehow" ammunition became extremely expensive, the federal courts would nuke that "somehow" from space for being an undue restriction on the 2A rights of Baltimorians and whomever else it applies to. You won't be the last person to suggest this, and you're far from the first, but such an expense would have the effect of stripping nearly all people (depending on the cost) of their right to keep and bear arms.

DC v Heller "We must also address the District’s requirement (as applied to respondent’s handgun) that firearms in the home be rendered and kept inoperable at all times. This makes it impossible for citizens to use them for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional."
posted by Sunburnt at 11:47 AM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The power of photojournalism to galvanize previously complacent people to demand social reform shouldn't be diminished. 1 easy example -- Lewis Hine's photos of children working in appalling conditions which helped create child labor laws. The NRA has to know it's possible to change minds with emotional images and that is why they continually block federally funded research into gun violence and gun deaths. Sadly our corporate controlled media is not likely to start broadcasting graphic images of what a bullet wound to the head of a toddler looks like up close.

The Anti-Abortion crowd has used the strategy of graphic photos to their advantage for a long time now. I wonder what would happen if The Brady Campaign or Everytown for Gun Safety started showing up to protests or meetings with Congress carrying huge placards showing horrific images?
posted by pjsky at 11:51 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Guns work perfectly well as tools of violence even if you never shoot them. It seems like half the time they catch kids doing stickups here the gun is fake. Odds are good that most robbers wouldn't shoot you if you ran as it is, but the risk is too great to do anything other than act as if your life is in real danger any time someone is brandishing. There's no price on a bullet that could change that. It would be pretty cool if there were a solution this simple.

If "somehow" ammunition became extremely expensive, the federal courts would nuke that "somehow" from space for being an undue restriction on the 2A rights of Baltimorians and whomever else it applies to.


Ok, I know the solution is never simple, but...

1) If the stickup gun is fake or unloaded or less frequently fired I call that a win.

2) I suppose that taxing ammo would be an "undue restriction," but so is the unduly high cost of plutonium. Practically speaking, it would have to be implemented in a nice gradual way, 50 cents at a time, justified at every step by the need for revenue to pay homicide detectives, or bury impoverished victims.
posted by TreeRooster at 12:14 PM on January 6, 2016


If "somehow" ammunition became extremely expensive, the federal courts would nuke that "somehow" from space for being an undue restriction on the 2A

Does the 2A extend to ammo?

Nevertheless, so many people reload their own cartridges that an extra expense for retail cartridges could easily be routed around.
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2016


2A extends to arms, which are either a concept that includes ammunition, or refers to something that can't be used for its lawful purpose without ammo. Maybe a lower court judge would let it slide, but you can expect a federal court to laugh in the face of an ammo tax that make it cost - prohibitive.

In real life, ammo taxes exist to drive away ammo sellers. It just happened here in Seattle, this very week. We've got enough gun stores in easy diving distance that most people don't have trouble getting ammo, and there's always mail order.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:46 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't find anything but online opinionation about 2A vis a vis ammo tax/price. Has it ever been litigated?
posted by rhizome at 2:11 PM on January 6, 2016


I'm not sure showing pictures of murdered children would help. People would be shocked and outraged that gruesome pictures were being used to sell papers. Or tv, or whatever.
That's not the best use of shock and outrage energy.
posted by merelyglib at 2:21 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I can't find anything but online opinionation about 2A vis a vis ammo tax/price. Has it ever been litigated?

Not exactly, but the Minnesota Tax Commissioner once tried (in the 1980s!) to tax ink as a means of driving up costs for the press, and maybe driving them out of business. The Star-Tribune took them to court, and ultimately SCOTUS ruled it unconstitutional. Louisiana did it in the 1930s, and SCOTUS threw it out. The court also cited the Stamp Act of 1712 which was a tax intended to chill speech and the press, and also had provisions to eliminate anonymous publications, ostensibly for tax collection purposes.

What's a press without ink?
posted by Sunburnt at 2:40 PM on January 6, 2016


This brief Facebook post from Adam Marton gutted me.
Thelonius Monk, 28, was one of Baltimore's 344 homicide victims in 2015. Thelonius stole my car about a decade ago and while he was never charged with the crime, case search shows he was arrested dozens of times in his short life and spent time in a juvenile detention center. He fished my keys out of the night drop at Mr. Tire one summer night. It was barely an inconvenience, such is my life. Insurance covered a loaner and Brooke and I went on vacation, as planned. When I got my car back a few weeks later, Thelonius has installed a baby seat and a subwoofer and the car was strewn with job applications. It was and remains one of the most heartbreaking scenes of my life. Our lives crossed, however oddly and briefly, and I can't help but think that Thelonius probably never had a chance. A chance to escape, a chance to succeed. The opportunities I have always enjoyed. I feel like maybe he was trying to use my car to make a break for it. I wish he had made it. Rest in peace, young man, I will never forget you.
posted by naju at 3:00 PM on January 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


If white teenagers had the same widespread and easy access to jobs in the drug trade and were in a position where selling drugs didn't appreciably diminish their perception of safety, they'd sell heroin too, and then maybe Congress would take an interest in the economic incentives prohibition has set up.

vathek,
That is a great comment above. This part is not right. There's kids all over dieing and killing over meth. Kids of crackers, hillbillies and rednecks down South. The Midwest's hick's and hayseed's kids doing the same. Out West its more death and cowboy, clodhopper, roughneck and lumberjack kids killing.
Just tweakers scattered over 3 million square miles.
posted by ridgerunner at 11:02 PM on January 6, 2016


I've never heard of any part of the country where it's basically all white people hanging out on corners selling to any person or car that comes by. Heck, is there even a single Country song about slanging dope and capping asses?

I know it's not a 1-1 translation from The Wire to Statesboro, but let's call a spade a spade.
posted by rhizome at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2016


It would be interesting to see how things shook out in terms of legally-owned-and-operated guns versus illegal guns.

I searched for "defend" or "mugger" and similar words and didn't find any matches. Does anybody know if a person defending himself (or family or property) against a criminal counts as homicide? (even if justified and lawful)

Or does this list consist entirely of deaths that were deemed by the police to have taken place unlawfully?
posted by theorique at 11:07 AM on January 7, 2016


Baltimore is a national disgrace highlighted by a brilliant show that pounded out the effects of long term racism year after year. Meth is a diffused cancer used as a background for Winters Bone's artsy character study.

I just don't see writing desperate white kids out of the narrative. And yep, I'm bitter, of the last 3 kids I tried to help: one's dead, one's in prison, and the other one switched to opiates. 0 for 3 in two years.

I ain't gonna delete this, but it should be the last in a thread drift.
posted by ridgerunner at 11:15 AM on January 7, 2016


2015 was a terrible year for Baltimore, but it bucked recent trends of lowered crime and homicides. This is not about Baltimore being irredeemable, but is about very specific police actions or lack thereof. Homicides had been consistently in the 300s per year in the 1990s. The 2000s saw a decidedly positive trend, with the annual total dipping to 197 in 2011. As recent as 2014 there were just over 210. Every homicide is a tragedy, but the trend had been very positive until this year.

Here are the past ten years of homicides:
2006 - 275
2007 - 282
2008 - 234
2009 - 240
2010 - 223
2011 - 196
2012 - 219
2013 - 235
2014 - 210
2015 - 344
posted by jetsetsc at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Thelonius Monk story was on NPR this morning.
posted by MtDewd at 9:05 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


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