Baltimore hits 300 homicides for fifth year in a row

Several Southwest Baltimore neighbors began their Thursday morning with a visit to the South Monroe Grocery store and more bad news.

The lingering scent of bleach and a police presence outside the small shop signaled to patrons that another homicide had occurred. The officers soon placed a call to the fire department to wash the remaining flecks of blood from the pavement.

Hours earlier, a man and a woman were fatally shot — the 299th and 300th individuals killed in Baltimore in 2019.

Their deaths marked the city’s fifth consecutive year losing at least 300 citizens to homicide. The staggering total has become an unofficial milestone in Baltimore’s annual struggle to quell extreme violence.

Police confirmed the double shooting Thursday near the grocery store in the 1900 block of McHenry St. Prior to that, 21-year-old Donnell Brockington, of Aberdeen, died at an area hospital after he was found Wednesday night with gunshot wounds in the 2600 block of McElderry St.

“Every murder is a tragedy. We don’t want any. We strive to clear them all,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Thursday on WYPR’s Midday show with Tom Hall.

Harrison, who previously served as New Orleans’ chief, said it took years for that city to reverse its crime trends. He said he attributed the reversals there partially to apprehending and holding criminals accountable. By solving more crimes, he said they were able to solve homicides, shootings and prevent more.

He said a new deployment strategy in Baltimore placed officers in the area of a shooting Wednesday night, allowing them to catch a fleeing vehicle. “Our officers were right where they are supposed to be.”

However, Harrison said to address the “culture of violence” in Baltimore, he said there must be programs offering young men a path away from a life of crime.

“If you’re not doing that we are only responding to it,” he said.