- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BALTIMORE (AP) - Baltimore’s homicide rate continues to soar, but the police department’s clearance rate has declined over the past three months, the city’s acting police commissioner said Tuesday.

The clearance rate for the year to date is a little over 36 percent - a significant drop from April, when it was roughly 60 percent, Acting Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference. But May saw the most severe homicide spike in decades, with 42 slayings in 31 days.

So far, July has seen 39 homicides. The total for the year so far is 182, a roughly 56 percent increase from this time last year.

Davis said he is confident that the clearance rate will climb, but that it is “not where we want it to be.”

“We’re at the end of July. It’s a hot summer and we’ve experienced an uptick in violence that has the community and police department frustrated,” Davis said. “Historically we’re in the mid-40s … We take very seriously our responsibility to bring closures for the victims and their families, and it’s our expectation that our homicide clearance rate will continue to rise.”

Police called the news conference to announce arrests in three recent slayings, including the death of a 19-year-old man who was shot Monday on North Avenue. The spot is near where much of the unrest erupted following the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. The two other recently closed homicide cases involved a food delivery man who was shot on July 26, and man who was stabbed on July 23 during what police described as a dispute over $3.

The homicide rate spiked significantly after Gray’s death, leading some residents to blame police officers who they say abandoned their posts in crime-ridden areas following the indictments of six officers in connection with Gray’s death.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired police commissioner Anthony Batts on July 8 and appointed Davis in his place. Rawlings-Blake said Batts had become a distraction from the crime fight.

During the news conference Tuesday Davis promised to continue to update community members on the department’s crime fight, and said the police rely on neighbors’ willingness to speak with investigators to solve cases. Davis added that he plans to meet with FBI Director James Comey later this week. He also said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last week sent 10 additional agents to Baltimore as part of the police department’s partnership with federal agencies.

“We promised our community that in the midst of this very busy and challenging summer that we would provide constant updates regarding our crime fight,” Davis said. “We can’t go forward and continue to make progress without two entities: patrol officers and the community.”

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