The recent mass shooting of thirty people in the Brooklyn Homes neighborhood is a stark reminder of how many shootings happen almost daily in Baltimore City that are non-fatal. While every murder is a tragedy, the terrible loss of life in Baltimore from gun violence overshadows the grim statistic of the number of Baltimoreans maimed but not killed by gun fire.

In the case of Brooklyn Homes, the 28 gunshot victims who were not killed represent less than 10% of non-fatal shootings in Baltimore as of July 2, 2023, the date of the South Baltimore attack. By then, the city had experienced more than 130 homicides and roughly 300 non-fatal shootings. Statistics for the last five calendar years reveal that for every murder in Baltimore City, there are two non-fatal shootings.

From January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2022, Baltimore saw 1,662 murders, an average of 332 killings per year. Within that same timeframe, there were 3,295 gunshot survivors, averaging 659 victims per year. With the emphasis on murders, are we losing sight of the total extent of gun violence plaguing Baltimore?

Think about it, Baltimore.  Non-fatal shootings on our streets are happening at a rate of one gun assault every 13 hours around the clock. Factor in shootings resulting in death and Baltimoreans are victims of gun violence every eight hours and 53 minutes, 24/7. A recent Baltimore Times editorial identified ten neighborhoods responsible for 67% of all murders in the city. Those same communities, in most cases, are among the most impoverished and least resourced.

As we have previously concluded, Baltimore neighborhoods that are bereft of employment and community services tend to inherit the illicit drug trade as the default economy and suffer the intense violence that comes with it. Guns are the enforcement method for dealers seeking to control and expand their turf and further gun violence results from addicts seeking to finance their opium and cocaine habits.

A report by the U.S. Department of Justice explains it this way: “In specific inner-city territories, Baltimore gangs control drug distribution from street-level consumption to bulk wholesale. A gang leader seeks to dominate territory and expand the gang’s geographic control. After the base of operation is secured, a gang focuses on optimizing the territory for the sale of street-grade heroin and cocaine. The gang leader maintains dominance over the membership by a mixture of rewards and violence, with an emphasis on the latter.”

The toll taken on Baltimore City resulting from the illicit drug industry and out of control gun violence is nearly incalculable. For starters, the cost to Baltimoreans to police the violence in the city costs residents more than 25% of the municipal budget, approximately five-hundred-fifty-million dollars—$550,000,000. 

In a city with one-in-four of the population living below the poverty threshold, funding the Baltimore City Police Department costs residents an average of $840 per year each, one-in-four of every dollar spent to finance the city’s operations. A 2017 study by Johns Hopkins University entitled, “The Annual Cost of Gun Violence in America—$2.8 billion in Emergency Room, Inpatient Charges,” offers a stunning statistic on the cost to treat urban gunshot victims, many of whom are uninsured.

According to Hopkins, “the average emergency department and inpatient charges annually were $5,254 and $95,887, respectively,” totaling $101,141. This average medical expense to treat Baltimore’s annual 659 non-fatal shooting victims comes with a price tag of approximately sixty-six-million, six-hundred-fifty-thousand, nine-hundred-nineteen dollars— $66,651,919. 

Moreover, this calculation does not consider the cost for physical therapy and rehabilitation for gunshot victims, many of whom require lifetime care and medications resulting from bullet-inflicted spinal cord injuries. Have you noticed the increasing numbers of wheelchair-bound young men in inner city Baltimore?

Besides these readily apparent costs, those convicted of gun violence and gun-related crime continue to feed the mass incarceration machine, resulting in one-in-nine black children having an incarcerated parent. Also, many neighborhoods of color that lack sufficient community-based employment, decent housing, retail stores and entertainment and recreation outlets, are due to conditions being so threatening from crime and violence that the private resources required to uplift those neighborhoods are repelled from investing.

How and when will the conditions that foment rampant violence, drug use and social dysfunction in inner city Baltimore be repaired? If there is an answer to Baltimore’s woes, it will come from the city’s children who are about to inherit the conditions we’ve described. When and how will we prepare our children who are currently 7% proficient in math and 16% proficient in reading?

Regi Taylor
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