February 2016 archive

Baltimore: The Second Deadliest City in the United States

In my previous blog posts, I discussed the plight of Baltimore’s educational system, as well as the drug epidemic that has earned Baltimore the title of “heroin capital of the United States.” While discussing the issues of urban America, it is important to recognize that each problem is intertwined, impacting all aspects of the city. For example, turning to drug dealing as a means of making money frequently culminates in school dropout, further aggravating the problem low educational attainment and reduced rates of achievement. In addition, drug addiction can lead many individuals to life of crime as they desperately seek money to support their habit. I would like to use this next post to explore the recent spike in violent crime in Baltimore, examining both drug-related and non-drug related offenses.

On august 7, 2015, The Baltimore Brew released a chilling article about the crime rates in Baltimore. Unfortunately, the city so dear to me has recently surpassed Detroit in the number of homicides, thus being deemed the second deadliest city in the United States, behind St. Louis. From January 2015 to July 2015, 189 killings were reported in Baltimore. That is 64% more homicides than in 2014. Statistics show that there are around 30 killings per every 100,000 citizens. Citizens and city officials struggled to understand this rapid uptick in violent crime.

According to the Baltimore Brew, there are several factors that may be relevant in understanding the unexpected rise of homicides. Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis, places the blame on easy access to guns and accompanying gang-related violence. As an attempt to understand and discuss the rise in violence, the Major Cities Chief Police Association hosted a meeting in Washington D.C. During this meeting, D.C. Police Chief, Cathy L. Lanier, explained that the homicides taking place in dangerous cities, such as Baltimore, are no longer between a lone gunman and his victim, but rather gunplay between multiple individuals armed with highly lethal weapons. Baltimore Police have made 22% more gun arrests in an attempt to curb the violence. However, this may have had the opposite effect with regard to attitudes about the police.

In the city of Baltimore, many neighborhoods with a low socioeconomic status have developed a deep contempt and mistrust for the police. An example of this animosity for police was apparent in the chaos that erupted following Freddie Gray’s death while in custody of the Baltimore City Police.. Freddie Gray was an African American man arrested by the Baltimore City Police who died while being transported in a police van on April, 2015. At some point in police custody, Gray suffered an injury to the spinal cord, which ultimately lead to his death. The six officers involved in his death are charged with manslaughter, false arrest, as well as reckless endangerment. Following Gray’s death, on April 25, 2015, a peaceful protest took a deadly turn resulting fires, looting, and several arrests in the City of Baltimore. Some individuals believe that the rise in homicides in Baltimore may be due to what is known as the “Ferguson Effect.” This theory links protests of police violence towards African Americans to a spike in crime rates. Others speculate that police may be “standing down” or less aggressive for fear they will be criticized for the manner in which they do their job.

However, Stephanie Rawling-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, argues that the rise of homicides in Baltimore does not have anything to do with Freddie Gray or less aggressive policing. Rather, she claims that increase in crimes has to do with drugs, escalating gang violence, and easy access to guns. She also goes on to state that the rise in homicides is a national issue, not just a Baltimore issue, that needs to be addressed by the government.

In attempt to solve the problem at a local level, FBI agents have been assigned to work with local Baltimore detectives to try and investigate unsolved homicides. In addition, the police department is going through several reformations and adjustments, including the retirement of several high-ranking officers.

Statistics shows that the vast number of homicides that take place in Baltimore have to do with gang-violence, drugs, and easy access to guns. While the rate of homicides has risen sharply this year, there is no clear strategy to reduce these numbers. Perhaps the United States should consider the revision of its gun policies with the aim of reducing access, especially for highly lethal automatic weapons. Concurrently, cities such as Baltimore, must address the vexing problem of drug addiction, limited access to drug treatment, drug trade, and the resultant gang violence driving crime statistics.






Baltimore: The Heroin Capital of the United States


In my last blog post I discussed the difficulties evident in Baltimore’s primary and secondary educational system. I offered several factors that may contribute to the poor performance of the system including the lack of value and emphasis on educational achievement, limited qualified teachers, and scarce financial resources. One of the primary factors offered as impacting Baltimore’s educational system was the city’s drug trade. In this blog post I would like to delve deeper into Baltimore’s drug trade and the devastating consequences it has inflicted upon Baltimore.

In a recent article released by ABC News, Carter M. Yang, the author of the article, characterized Baltimore as the heroin capital of the United States of America. According to Yang’s article, 60,000 of the 645,000 residents in Baltimore are addicted to drugs and 48,000 are addicted to heroin.

Heroin is a highly addictive narcotic painkiller that is used recreationally for its euphoric effects. Heroin is so addictive that, according to the National Institute for Drug abuse, 23% of the 2.3 billion people who have used heroin become dependent on it. Long-term use of heroin results in deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which may affect decision-making abilities and judgment. Unfortunately, as users begin to experiment with heroin, they develop a tolerance, meaning they must increase their dosage each time they choose to take the drug in order to achieve the same effect. This often results in physical and psychological addiction as well as fatal overdoses.

The drug problem is so intense in Baltimore that it has been declared part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This program was created in 1988 when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The purpose of the Act is to reduce drug abuse by helping to provide law enforcement agencies with resources and enhance drug prevention and drug addiction programs.

According to Tom Carr, the head of the Washington and Baltimore HIDTA program, the heroin problem in Baltimore began in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, heroin use is integrated into the city’s urban culture. As I indicated in my previous post, using drugs and selling drugs has become an acceptable way of life for many adolescents and young adults in the city. Carr even went to far as to say that it is “a rite of passage,” for many young individuals in the community,

Drug use is not only detrimental to one’s individual health, but it also contributes to several of the city’s other problems. As I stated in my first post, the heroin epidemic in Baltimore has largely contributed to the failing educational system. In addition, drug use also plays a significant role in violent crime in the city. Many individuals end up involved in prostitution, robberies, or more serious crimes in order to support their habit.

Many politicians and citizens of Baltimore have been trying to come up with solutions to help put an end to this heroin epidemic. Some argue that there is no point in trying to stop it as the number of drug dealers and drug users rises annually. Also, Baltimore’s low-income neighborhoods and its location on the harbor make it prime target for drug dealers to ship drugs up and down the coast. Some individuals have proposed drug interdiction through the arrest and incarceration of both dealers and users. Others have suggested decriminalization for users and greater access to treatment alternatives. Still others focus on the high number of drug overdose deaths, seeking strategies to reduce the loss of life. In 2013 alone, 300 fatal heroin overdoses were reported in Baltimore. In response to this shocking amount of deaths, Baltimore City Police officers are required to carry naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose. Unfortunately, many users report a fear of going to prison and therefor are reluctant to call for help.

The heroin epidemic in Baltimore remains a significant and recalcitrant problem impacting every aspect of the city’s health and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. However, the city has yet to declare a state of emergency. Baltimore is the only major city on the East Coast that has not declared a state of emergency. As the number of drug dealers and drug consumers continue to rise, many wonder what actions the city can take to address the far-reaching effects of this epidemic.