BALTIMORE — 2019 comes to an end with 348 people killed in Baltimore City. A number no one is proud of. The record is 353 back in 1993 but at that time there 100,000 more people living in Baltimore.
"People just get used to the violence and we just get used to it because we're so numbed by it," said Reverend Scott Slater with the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He's part of the Ceasefire Movement. Every year on New Year's Eve, he gathers a group to remember each person killed throughout the year.
"A name honors the individuality and the dignity of each person and part of our tradition is honoring and respecting the dignity of every human being," said Reverend Slater. He added, "as you read the names that sense of despair and anger over the unnecessary violence just soaks in with every name spoken." He hopes he won't have nearly as many names to read next year.
Ceasefire and Safe Streets are two organizations who've been working to stop the violence for years. Now, others in the city are taking their own initiative like the "March & Solution" or the "Unity Men."
Many in the community don't want to rely on city officials or police for change.
"We realize we have a long way to go," said Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison at a press conference on New Year's Eve. He took over earlier in 2019 and implemented a crime plan in hopes to lower the violence. He said, "it’s not yet what we want. It’s not yet where it needs to be but we are getting indications that they are seeing police presence and engagement."
Commissioner Harrison said they're working to add more man power, training and to make sure the case load is appropriate. He originally shot down the idea of using a surveillance plane saying there was zero evidence it worked then a switch this month. The "Eye in the Sky" will launch in the spring for a pilot program funded by the Arnold Foundation and not taxpayers.
The city is also getting state and federal funding in 2020 to help combat crime. Just last week, the Justice Department announced Baltimore was one of the seven cities in a new program called "Operation Relentless Pursuit." The agency is committing up to 71 million dollars to help fight violent crime.
As of New Year's Eve, Baltimore's homicide clearance rate is nearly 32 percent, compared to last year's 43 percent.