NYTimes | In 2015, Baltimore’s murder rate not only increased the most among the 100 top cities, it also reached a historic high of 55 homicides per 100,000 residents. Its previous record high was in 1993, when the rate was 48.
Some experts attribute the sudden spike in violence largely to a flood of black-market opiates looted from pharmacies during riots in April 2015. The death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury in police custody, had set off the city’s worst riots since the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
During the riots, nearly 315,000 doses of drugs were stolen from 27 pharmacies and two methadone clinics, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a number much higher than the 175,000 doses the agency initially estimated.
Most of the homicides in Baltimore were connected to the drug trade, and what happened in 2015 was a result of more people “getting into the game of selling drugs,” said Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore.
Police commanders have said that an oversupply of inventory from looting resulted in a violent battle for customers among drug gangs.
“This would have caused a disruption in drug markets, with more people trying to maintain or increase their market share,” Dr. Ross said. “You have new entrants coming into the field, altering the supply and demand of illegal drugs in those neighborhoods,” often leading to increased violence.
If the drug theory holds true, the killings in Baltimore should subside this year. A midyear violent crime survey by theMajor Cities Chiefs Police Association showed that while killings were up among 60 large cities, they were slightly down in Baltimore.
“I’m not going to say they’re going to return to historic lows, but we hit a peak last year and things are settling themselves out,” Dr. Ross said.