- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — Six persons have been fatally shot on city streets since Friday morning, bringing the number of homicides to 19 in the first two weeks of the new year, police said.

The latest killing occurred shortly after police called a news conference to discuss the wave of killings that have pushed the total close to the 23 recorded for January 2003.

Acting Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm said pressure from police to cut down on drug trafficking has dealers trying to collect debts, and resorting to violence in the process.

“We are keeping with the same game plan … putting pressure on drug dealers,” Commissioner Hamm said Saturday at a rare weekend news conference called to discuss the killings.

A similar crime wave occurred in 2000, when police recorded 14 homicides in the first 17 days of the new year.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the department is prepared for the possibility that the strategy might cause a continuation of the homicide spike.

“We hope each month we will have fewer homicides than the previous month,” Mr. Jablow said. “We have a good plan.”

While murder rates dropped nationwide last year, according to the FBI, the rate increased in Baltimore. Last year, there were 278 homicides in Baltimore, the highest number since 1999.

In addition to police work, experts say other factors, including an aging adult population less prone to violence, are among the reasons for the decrease nationwide.

In the 1990s, more than 300 people were killed each year in Baltimore. In 2000, the number dropped to 261. It fell to 253 in 2002 and rose last year to 271.

Mayor Martin O’Malley, who was elected five years ago, has made reducing the city’s homicides a cornerstone of his administration.

Mr. O’Malley had hoped to reduce homicides to 175 a year by 2002.

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