- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

BALTIMORE The Little Italy restaurant had been rented out for a going-away party for a man who was about to serve three years in prison on drug charges.
An argument broke out about 2 a.m. at Mo's Crab and Pasta Factory, and two gunmen took it outside to the parking lot. Sidney Joyner, 29, was caught in the cross fire. He died when a large-caliber bullet went into his chest, puncturing his heart and lung.
Mr. Joyner's name is etched in black on a dry-eraser board made famous by a television series about the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit. Mr. Joyner's death on Dec. 1 made him the 234th of the city's 243 homicide victims as of Dec. 12.
Detective Gordon Carew, the primary investigator of Mr. Joyner's death, points to the board and tells the victims' stories. There's a case of a man killing his wife and two cases in which road rage escalated into a shooting. There's a carjacking that resulted in the death of a pharmacist, and a pair of deadly child-abuse cases.
The specifics vary, but there's one tie that binds the vast majority of the victims.
"Almost every one of these people had a criminal record. That's a fact," Detective Carew said. "The bulk of their charges were related to drugs."
Mr. Joyner had served three years after being convicted of first-degree murder charges and had a series of arrests on drug and robbery charges dating back to 1990.
During the 1990s, more than 300 people were killed each year in Baltimore one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the country. In 1998, its per capita rate was six times that of New York City.
The numbers dipped more than 15 percent last year, but the prevalence of violent death is still a definitive part of the city's national reputation, shaped largely by NBC-TV's "Homicide: Life on the Street."
Who are the faces behind the numbers? Like Mr. Joyner, the victims are mostly black and male. Most are younger than 30.
That means hundreds of black men are killed each year, and many more are sent to prison. When that happens, a sizable chunk of the community's population is missing, says Matthew A. Crenson, who teaches urban politics at Johns Hopkins.
The result is a self-perpetuating matriarchal cycle in which women take over households, and young men grow up with very few positive male role models or professional opportunities in their community, Mr. Crenson says.
The drug trade becomes an alluring and potentially lucrative albeit dangerous alternative.
Since the 1980s, Baltimore has ranked among the nation's top markets for heroin and cocaine. Experts say the exceedingly violent drug scene has left large stretches of the city entrenched in fear, poverty and crime.
"In the subgroup involved in this kind of street dynamic, you are markedly more vulnerable than if you were in the infantry in Vietnam," said David Kennedy, a Harvard University criminologist who has analyzed Baltimore's culture of homicide.
According to an analysis of data from the Baltimore Police Department, men accounted for almost 87 percent of the homicide victims from 1998 to 2000.
Black men represent 80.6 percent of the victims. About 58 percent of those killed were 17 to 29 years old.
Of those arrested and charged in a homicide, more than 96.6 percent were male. Ninety-five percent of the suspects were black and 5 percent were white. Just under 72 percent were between the ages of 17 and 29.
Nationwide, known suspects were 89.8 percent male, 50.1 percent black and 47.2 percent white.
Experts say the figures are not surprising black males have been over-represented nationwide as both homicide victims and suspects for decades, and Baltimore's high numbers in both categories reflect its majority black population.
According to the 2000 census, 64.3 percent of the city's 651,154 residents are black and 31.6 percent are white. Nationwide, the population is 12.8 percent black.
Sheldon Greenberg, director of Hopkins' police executive leadership program and a former bureau commander at the Howard County Police Department, said it's important to draw distinctions within the black male population.

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