It’s still early in 2024, but Baltimore is off to its least violent start in nearly a decade.

Shootings so far are down compared to last year, which was the first year with fewer than 300 homicides since Freddie Gray’s death in April 2015. Youth gun violence — which soared in 2022 and 2023 — is also showing signs of decline.

There were 16 homicides in January, the fewest killings to start a year in Baltimore since 2016, according to a Baltimore Banner analysis of the Baltimore Police Department’s Part 1 Crime database. It’s also tied for the seventh fewest homicides in any month since Gray’s death.

It’s not just homicides that are down. Shootings in general are down significantly. Looking at both shootings and homicides, Baltimore is in the midst of one of its least violent stretches since 2015, the earliest year with reliable shooting data. Last month also saw the fewest assaults in the city since February 2022.

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There have been fewer shootings, on average, during the last three months than any three-month period since Gray’s death. Baltimore saw 42 people shot in January. That’s the second fewest shootings in any month since Gray’s death, topped only by February 2018 — the shortest month.

Even as gun violence overall is down, the share of young shooting victims has also decreased.

Baltimore saw a surge in gun violence during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and young people were more affected by that violence than ever. High school-aged teens were shot at alarming rates in 2022 and 2023. That remained true even as the overall rate of shootings and deaths fell last year. Those shootings declined slightly at the end of 2023, and while January saw more teens shot than December, the year-over-year trend is positive.

Last January, 17 high school-aged kids were shot, compared to eight this January.

One teen has been killed so far in 2024, compared to six in January 2023. And even as overall shootings are down, the share of shooting victims that are school-aged has also decreased, from around 27% in early 2023 to around 18% this year.

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That number is still higher than most recent years before 2023, and it’s still early in the year. Winter months tend to have fewer shootings and homicides.

Overall, shootings and homicides in January are each down 33% compared to this time last year. Teen shootings are down 53% and teen homicides are down 83%.

Last month’s low violent crime numbers were a continuation of the downward trend that started last year. Baltimore ended the year with 263 homicides, falling below 300 for the first time since 2014. And homicides decreased more and more as the year went on.

Many city leaders took credit for last year’s decline in violence. Mayor Brandon Scott credited his implementation of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, a combination of targeted police enforcement and expanded social services to people likely to take part in violence, as the driver behind the drop.

U.S. Attorney for Maryland Erek Barron said his office’s increased focus on gun possession has taken would-be shooters off the streets.

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Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, who took office last January, said word of his prosecutors’ courtroom success was spreading through communities.

In a statement to The Banner Friday, Baltimore Police pointed to GVRS and other parts of Baltimore’s Comprehensive Violence Prevention Plan as initiatives they may be helping the violence trend down.

“It has been this holistic and comprehensive approach that includes initiatives such as the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, Community Violence Intervention and the city’s award-winning Behavioral Health 911-Diversion program,” Amanda Krotki, a spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department, said in an email.

“We are encouraged, but we must proceed with our data-driven approach while continuing to build relationships with the community,” she added.

Ramsey Archibald is an award-winning data journalist originally from Birmingham, Alabama. 

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